A Soldier's Diary
A personal account by Carl H. Hulsman
Background: Carl Hulsman wrote a detailed diary of his military service so that his son would better understand what his father's life was like in the Army. Few soldiers have recorded such extensive details of their experiences, reactions and observations. His very personal record of one man's perspective on life with the Dragon provides details many of us may have forgotten, or never knew. While the record begins with his enlistment in the Army one week after his 17th birthday, well before he joined the 2nd Cml Mortar Bn, and continues after he left the Battalion in Korea, our unedited excerpts are only from the time he was with the Battalion, early 1949 to July 1951. We thank Carlfor allowing us to publish these excerpts.
Serial publication: The diary was first published in The Red Dragon, the newsletter of the 2nd Cml Mortar Bn, beginning with issue #6 in February 1998 and ending with issue #12 in February 2000.
Introduction: Returning from Germany in February 1949, at the end of his first three-year hitch, Carl tried to reenlist at Camp Kilmer, NJ, for the 2nd Cml Mortar Bn at Edgewood Arsenal, MD. When told there were no openings in that unit (!?!), Carl simply did the following.
21 Feb 1949 - My 20th birthday.
28 Feb 1949 - I was paid for sixty days of my accumulated leave time and honorably discharged at Camp Kilmer, NJ. Leaving the post, I took a train down to Edgewood, MD. When I arrived at the 2nd Chemical, I asked to see the CO, Lt Col Edgar V. H. Bell. Col. Bell, having been alerted by Lt [Bruce] Elliott to expect me, welcomed me into his office. I told him my unfortunate story. He arranged with Post Hq that I be reenlisted the next day.
1 Mar 1949 - I reenlisted in grade (corporal) for three years and was assigned to Co A of the 2nd Cml, which at that time consisted of only Hq Co and Co A. The 2nd was the only chemical mortar battalion in the Army, all others having been deactivated. Col. Bell asked if I wanted any leave to go home. When I reminded him that I had no leave time accumulated, he said I could borrow as much as I wanted against my future service. I asked for and got a 5-day leave and went home for the first time since July 1946.
Later in March, enough soldiers fresh out of basic training at Fort Dix, NJ, arrived at the Battalion so that B and C companies were opened and organized. I was transferred to Co B where Lt [Bruce] Elliott, the company commander, made me platoon sergeant of the third platoon. The first sergeant was M/Sgt Richard L. Slick, the first platoon's sergeant was SFC Dale Cummins, and the second platoon's sergeant was SFC Vincent Pukas.
12 Apr 1949 - Promoted to Acting SFC (E6). This really didn't mean very much because there was no increase in my pay grade. It was merely an attempt to recognize the fact that I too was a platoon sergeant.
As to geography, Edgewood Arsenal occupied a rather sharply pointed peninsula which projects out into the Chesapeake Bay. It becomes narrower towards its end because the rivers on each side of it widen considerably at their mouths. The Bay, in its northern reaches, is oriented in a northeast to southwest direction. Edgewood's peninsula, which carries the name of Gunpowder Neck, juts directly south from the mainland.
To the west of Gunpowder Neck is the Gunpowder River, while on the eastern side flows the Bush River. On the other side of Bush River is Aberdeen Proving Ground. The post — that is, the headquarters building, barracks, orderly rooms, chapel, hospital, theater, stockade, fire department, warehouses and other buildings — was located in the NW area of the reservation. From the parade ground, one might have a pleasant view of the Gunpowder River.
I was the only enlisted man from the 63rd Chemical [Base Depot & Maint Co] who came back to the States and reenlisted for the 2nd Cml Mortar Bn. Six of our Hanau officers, however, joined the 2nd at Edgewood (all first lieutenants): George R. Deakin, Samuel H Smith, James N. Elliott, Aethra C. Snow, R. Bruce Elliott, and Maurice E. Wilhelm. During the next ten months, I trained my platoon, and sometimes the whole company (Cummins and Pukas were not comfortable as classroom teachers but were excellent in the field), in various military subjects, most importantly the 4.2" mortar. Bivouac and field training were done at Indiantown Gap Military Reservation, PA, and at A. P. Hill Military Reservation, VA.
1 Jul 1949 - Promoted to Sergeant (E5). The 2nd Cml was the only combat unit on the post. I think nearly every man in the Battalion, from the colonel down to the newest recruit, was proud of that fact. Among other things, it meant that we had to be the best soldiers on the post.
Every enlisted man in the 2nd who had any stripes on his sleeves could readily be identified as a member of the 2nd because our stripes were blue on a yellow background, denoting a combat unit, while all other troops on the post wore stripes that were yellow on a blue background because they were service troops. In addition, combat leaders, which included platoon sergeants, wore a band of green cloth an inch and a half wide around each shoulder tab. We used pool-table felt for this purpose.
All units on post other than medics, and I suppose some headquarters people, detailed personnel each day to become the Post Guard for a 24-hour period. The post's small MP detachment provided the guard on the main gate, but the Post Guard provided security for all other areas including the stockade and the guarding of prisoners while they were out on trash and garbage detail.
Let's go off on a little tangent here in order for you to get some appreciation for the life of a prisoner. Prisoners were not permitted to loaf in their cells, but every day had to pull the more distasteful duties such as garbage collection. The Army then did not have any of those big "white elephant" trucks designed for the special purpose of collecting waste, which are used by municipalities now. We used open 2½-ton trucks. Two prisoners on the ground would hand garbage cans up to a third prisoner on the truck who emptied the cans, building a balanced load.
The one on the truck, knee-deep in yuck, then handed the cans back down, all with a proper respect for the cans which were not to be scratched or dented. After collection, they had to wash the truck. To further make their prison experience harassing, all prisoners had to strip naked each time they passed through the stockade door going either in or out. The reason given for this was to make sure they were not carrying any weapon or tool which might help in their escape. At night they washed the clothes they had worn that day.
We had what was termed "formal guard mount," which means that in addition to a very strict inspection, there was a rather long and involved ceremony that had to be gone through each day at 1800 hours, the time of the beginning of each 24-hour guard tour. That is, the beginning for the new guard, but the ending for the old guard. Our colonel had let it be known that no man from the 2nd was ever to fail a guard inspection. Sometimes he would come out to watch the proceedings from a distance.
Because I was a platoon sergeant, I would be Commander of the Guard when it was my turn to pull such duty. The commander had the most involved part in the guard mount ceremony. I knew the ritual quite well and was confident whenever I went through it. Sometimes the other commander — the old commander if I was coming on or the new one if I was going off — would make some terrible mistake such as not take the proper number of steps, or not face in the right direction, or not salute at the proper time or in the right direction, if he was from a unit other than the 2nd. I remember once, having flawlessly finished the ceremony, I let my eyes move over to see our colonel, and I thought I saw the hint of a satisfied smile on his face.
One time, during the summer of 1949, the Chief of the Chemical Corps, a major general, came from Washington to visit and inspect our post. An officer of such high rank rates the courtesy of a number of cannon salutes when he arrives on a post. Brig Gen E. F. Bullene, our post commander, asked our colonel to provide the detail to fire the salutes upon the arrival of the Chief. I was selected. I picked out a crew of the sharpest men in my platoon and we reported to post headquarters, in front of which stood the post's flagpole and saluting gun.
The firing was to commence as soon as the Chief came on post. Our brigadier and a group of officers and enlisted personnel came out of the headquarters building to watch the ceremony and to await the Chief. When the Chief's car had cleared the entrance gate, the MP on duty phoned post headquarters and the word was passed to me. I can't remember the number of salutes he rated, but we fired them off without any hitch and fell in on the edge of the driveway. When the Chief arrived, he got out of his car, was met by our brigadier, and the two of them came over to me. I reported to him and walked with the two generals as they inspected my men. He then gave me a "Well done, Sergeant," and they left to go into the building. I was very pleased that I had been selected to head the detail and that all had gone well.
19 Jan 1950 - Assisted by Cpl Edward J. Pratt (who was destined to die in Korea within the year), I went to Fort Banks, MA, a coast artillery post defending Boston, to bring back an AWOL recruit. Each time I picked up a prisoner, it was a man from the 2nd Cml. I would let the man know that he was to come along peacefully and without any fuss. I told him that I did not want to suffer the embarrassment of returning to Edgewood without my prisoner, so, if he tried to escape from us, I would not run after `him but, rather, I would without hesitation shoot him in the leg. Each man knew me and knew I was an Expert with the pistol. (Whether they believed I would shoot is something I did not care about. It was something for them to think about.) I warned that at the slightest sign of mischief, I would handcuff his right wrist to his left ankle, and he would continue in that awkward and uncomfortable position the rest of the way back to Edgewood.
A directive came out from Washington allowing any first-three grader who had previously held a commission to apply to get his commission back, but only if he were in a line position at the time of his application. Our battalion intelligence sergeant, Sgt Bradford E. Tyndall, had had a commission during World War II. At the end of the war, with the great down-sizing of the Army, there was a need for fewer officers. Many officers were separated from the service. Some who wanted to remain could do so only if they would accept enlisted status, generally as a first-three grader. Tyndall was one of the latter. Now he wanted to apply for his commission but, being the intelligence sergeant, he was in a staff position rather than a line position. To accommodate him, Col Bell ordered that Tyndall and I exchange places so that Tyndall could have my line position and therefore make application.
1 Feb 1950 - Sgt Tyndall was transferred from Hq Co to Co B where he became sergeant of the third platoon, and I was transferred from Co B to Hq Co where I became the intelligence sergeant. It was my understanding that, in due course, after Tyndall's purpose had been served, I would be transferred back to my platoon in Co B. To my great disappointment, that did not happen. A Sgt Brothers from a smoke generator outfit on post was transferred into Co B to lead my platoon, and I remained in the staff position, much to my disgust. I complained to a number of officers of what I felt to be unfair treatment. When nothing was done for me, rather than get a reputation for being a complainer, I settled down to being as good an intelligence sergeant as I could be.
Bradford Tyndall died January 16, 1951, in prisoner of war camp #5, in Pyktong, North Korea.
2 Feb 1950 - Assisted by PFC William H. McElroy, I went to Fort Banks, MA, again to bring back another AWOL private.
21 Feb 1950 - My 21st birthday.
11 to 18 March 1950 - Capt Thomas R. Isaacs, Capt Ralph R. Wance, SFC John M. Brooks, SFC John F. McNamara, Sgt Howard J. Deis, Sgt Roman C. Pawelski, Sgt Walter R. Randall, Cpl Jack L. Blackman, and I, all from Hq Co, attended the 82nd Airborne Inf Div's Air Transportability School at Fort Bragg, NC. Capt Wance, my boss, the intelligence officer, had served with the 83rd Cml Mortar Bn during WWII. At school, I learned how to load various military aircraft with vehicles, artillery pieces and other items so as to reasonably maintain the center of gravity of the aircraft. If the loaded aircraft's actual center of gravity was any significant distance from its designed center of gravity, due to its loads being out of balance, the pilot would have to use his controls to keep the aircraft in "trim." That would cause "drag" which would mean that additional fuel needed to be used. In general, it made the pilot's job more difficult. I was fascinated to learn this body of knowledge, something to which I had never before given a thought. With some difficulty, I mastered the Baker Bowline, a knot strong enough to hold a truck in place but which, with an easy tug at the end of the rope, would fall apart immediately.
Returning to Edgewood, we gave classes on the subject to groups of men in the Battalion so that everyone could either do it or at least have an appreciation for it.
During April and May of 1950, our Battalion participated in Exercise Swarmer, an airlifted maneuver with the 82nd Airborne Inf Div at Camp Mackall and Fort Bragg, NC. Many other units from around the country gathered there to join in the maneuver. To have enough air transport to accommodate the many thousands of troops, aircraft came in from what seemed like all parts of the world. This of course was training for the air crews as well.
Before loading my own vehicle and trailer, I helped load or checked out several loaded planes. My own equipment was assigned, with others, to a C-54 Globemaster, as I remember. At any rate, it was a large, 4-engine plane that stood silently on the tarmac as we loaded up.
When all was secured inside the plane, an Air Force crewman came down out of it and asked me if my men would crank the propellers. I had no idea what he was talking about, so he explained that each propeller had to be turned a couple of rotations before its engine could be started. He didn't say why.
I figured that it must have to do with either compression in the cylinders or starting the gasoline to flow, sort of like pumping the gas pedal in a car. It probably had nothing to do with either. He might just have been playing a trick on the dumb Army guys. It took quite a force to turn the propellers, which were so high off the ground that we had to take running jumps up to catch hold of a propeller blade and let our body weight bring the blade down, thereby turning the engine over. This was done several times for each engine. It was fun to do, and we never got any razzing over it, but I still don't know why we did it.
Spring in North Carolina is a rather pleasant time even though we did get some rain, which is seldom welcomed by a soldier in the field. The air-lifting was done in the early stages of the maneuver, after which we were kept busy getting our guns into position, registering them, simulating firing on the Aggressor Forces, pulling out of position, moving to another position, and so on. Each unit had one or more umpires with it. After a simulated firing mission, we would give the coordinates of the target and the number of shells "fired" to our umpire, who would then radio that information to the umpire in the target area who would determine the number of Aggressor "casualties" there. A couple of times Aggressor infantrymen got in among our guns, and we suffered "casualties." All in all, it was exciting, and we got some valuable training out of it.
Back at Edgewood, it was decided that in a move for economy — since soldiers, even with their food, clothing and housing, are paid less than civilians working on the post — a number of civilian positions would be filled by soldiers. So far as I could tell, that worked fine in many cases. But when they decided to disband the civilian fire department on post and replace it with a volunteer department of GI's, I thought someone had gone off the deep end. In the first place, the civilian firemen were trained and experienced professionals. Replacing them all with a group of know-nothing (as to fire fighting) GI's with no experience seemed ludicrous. In the second place, the civilian firemen were always at the station, subject to a normal civilian type schedule, ready to immediately respond to any fire alarm. To wait for the volunteer GI's, some of whom might be in the hospital, or on furlough, or on temporay duty at some other post, or on some duty on this post that they could not leave, to assemble from all over the post before getting the fire trucks rolling would waste precious time. Overriding everything, in my mind, was our unique situation. This was a Chemical Warfare post where many warehouses, laboratories and other buildings contained dangerous, even deadly, toxic materials, some in large quantities. Firemen had to know what special type danger was in each building and how to cope with it immediately should it catch fire. Did we dare make this change?!
I volunteered to become a fireman. We were to be given instruction by the civilian firemen before their termination. I was impressed with what a fireman had to know. I learned something about the science of hydraulics. I learned about the post's water system and how hydrants worked and what their limitations were. I learned how to drive the fire trucks, a Seagrave, an American LaFrance and a Buffalo. Wow, are they powerful! I learned how to operate each truck's equipment, and how to run pipe. Hoses are not hoses. They are pipe. I learned that cotton pipe had to be hung up to dry in the tower back at the station after each time it got wet, or it would soon rot. Fortunately, someone came to his senses, and the earlier decision was rescinded. We would keep our civilian fire department. But I came away with a healthy appreciation for firemen.
20 Jun 1950 - Assisted by Sgt Gerard H. Martin, I went to Fort McPherson, Georgia to bring back AWOL Recruit Henry W. Richardson. We took a city bus to go from Atlanta's railroad station to the Fort which is not far to the southwest from the center of the city. (McPherson, headquarters of the Third Army and therefore home to a lot of high ranking officers, had many beautiful homes for those officers. An old post, its parade ground had once been a polo field.) Getting on the bus, I noticed several empty seats in the rear. As we were armed, I felt we ought to keep our distance from civilians whenever we could. I led the way back, and we both sat on that rearmost seat which goes the full width of the bus. Looking forward, I noticed that everyone on the bus was looking at us except the nearby colored people who seemed to pretend we weren't there. Then I realized that we had "gone to the back of the bus." It was my first experience with segregation. Five months later I would see Martin in Korea where he was a second lieutenant in the infantry regiment we were then supporting.
25 Jun 1950 - The beginning of the Korean War. Coincidentally, this was the anniversary of Custer's defeat along the Little Bighorn River in Montana in 1876.
In a couple of weeks, there began an open and continuous call for volunteers to go to Korea. Sometimes a call would come for men of certain MOS's (Military Occupation or Specialty) and, if no one volunteered, men would be chosen to go. I wrestled with this. I was single with no dependents. I was Regular Army. I really ought to volunteer.
17 Aug 1950 - Assisted by Pvt Ronald A Lemon, I went to Fort Devens, Massachusetts, home of the 3rd Infantry Division, to bring back AWOL Recruit Leon S. Gordon.
Late in August 1950 - We were notified that our Battalion had been ordered to Korea. I didn't have to agonize over it any more. I was going.
1 to 4 Sep 1950 - I got leave to go home to say goodbye to my mother and father.
There was a great deal of work involved in getting the Battalion ready to go to Korea. All 163 of our vehicles, our 36 mortars, and all other organizational and individual equipment had to be put in proper operating order and packed or otherwise prepared for the train trip to California and the boat trip to Korea. Vehicles were loaded on flatcars and all other things were boxed and loaded into boxcars. A tremendous number of wooden boxes were built by the post carpenter shop.
The men of our Battalion filled a troop train, and the journey was my first trip any farther west than Camp Atterbury, Indiana. I was fascinated to watch our great and varied country pass by my window. The train stopped long enough in St. Louis and in Needles, California, to allow all military personnel to get off in order to do calisthenics on the station platforms.
We spent a few days at Camp Stoneman, near Pittsburgh, California. In the distance I saw what appeared to be great piles of wheat, but were in fact hills covered with grass gone dormant in the summer's heat and drought.
22 Sep 1950 - Leaving Stoneman, we went by ferryboat past a great many ships, both naval and merchant, which I supposed were left over from World War II, and now no longer needed. They were not mothballed, but rather were just lying there rusting away. The ferryboat took us to Fort Mason on the north coast of San Francisco where, upon disembarking, we walked directly over to another ship, the troopship David C. Shanks, which we boarded. Because of my position as intelligence sergeant, I shared a stateroom with another non-com rather than going down to the bottom of the ship and getting one of the five-high bunks.
After getting settled, many of us went back up on deck to see the very interesting and busy place that San Francisco harbor is. A solemn atmosphere overtook us when we recognized that a nearby ship's crane was unloading military coffins sixteen at a time. In the evening after supper, we went up on deck again and watched the Golden Gate Bridge seem to glide over us. A surfaced Navy submarine was coming in to the harbor as we were going out.
The Pacific was delightfully calm our whole trip except for one day while we were several hundred miles north of Hawaii when a great wave struck the ship. It was incredible that it should come out of such a calm sea. The ship leaned over so far that some Navy sailors, on their way to Pusan to pick up their ship, who were sitting on a hatch cover, slid along the cover, fell to the deck and slid or rolled over to the edge of the deck. At that particular place there was no chest-high steel wall, as there was around most of the perimeter of the deck, but rather an open place with only a chain fence which the men fortunately were able to grab hold of, thereby preventing their falling into the ocean. Down below, the merchandise on the shelves of the ship's store slid off onto the floor. We suffered only one injury when a rifle fell off a bunk striking a man's foot.
On only one other day was there something to interrupt our pleasant cruise. We were called out for small arms target practice off the stern of the ship. The targets were inflated condoms dropped into the sea. I think we each were given about five rounds, about four men firing at a time. There was absolutely no value to the exercise because, with the rippling of the water, due to the wake of the ship, one could not see where one's bullet struck, so one could not learn if he was firing over or short or left or right, and if one did see where a bullet struck, he wouldn't know whose bullet it was. I think the whole thing was just to make us have to clean our weapons.
8 Oct 1950 - Our ship landed at Pusan, South Korea, and we bivouaced at Tongnae, just north of the city. It took some few days to unload the ships and get set to move north. Besides the ship that carried our men, there were two others that brought our vehicles, guns and equipment.
13 Oct 1950 - The Battalion received 300 Republic of Korea privates and 3 ROK officers. The privates, having just entered the ROK army with no training of any kind, were assigned 75 to Hq Co and 75 to each of the three mortar companies. I don't know how the three officers, who had just graduated from OCS, were assigned. This "experiment" did not work out. They could speak no English and we could speak no Korean. There are limitations on communication when one is restricted to showing by example, making gestures and other waving of the arms and hands, and loudly swearing in a language that isn't understood. Not their fault, but they knew nothing about being soldiers in general nor mortarmen in particular. Worst of all, they had never heard of field sanitation. After several weeks of trying, their survivors were transferred to the 1st ROK Division.
I was a member of a party of three officers and three sergeants that went by train, while the rest of the Battalion came north by road in its vehicles. At Taegu one officer and one sergeant got off the train to find a bivouac area the Battalion might use when it arrived. At Taejon another officer and sergeant got off for the same reason. That left the intelligence officer, the position now occupied by Capt Murrell, and me to get off at Seoul on 17 October to find a bivouac area. We found a suitable area near Nakpongni (the suffixes ni and ri on a place name mean village in Korean) at about 1230 hours on 18 October. The leading vehicles of our Battalion arrived at 1500 hours and the last stragglers, followed by the motor maintenance section, came in at about 0400 hours on the 19th. I spent the night of the 18th-19th at the Han River bridge watching for our vehicles and directing them to the bivouac area.
At night, between Taegu and Taejon, the train we were on was attacked by North Korean soldiers that had been bypassed by our forces as they rushed north to link up with the Inchon invasion force. The North Koreans apparently had nothing heavier than machine guns which, along with rifles, they used to pour fire into the train. We were helpless to do anything other than to lie on the floor of our car and hope that the slow moving locomotive would not be disabled. I felt certain that if the train stopped, it would be destroyed and all personnel on the train killed.
That was my first experience under fire. I don't know the extent of casualties on the train. When the Battalion arrived in Seoul, we learned that it too had been attacked as it came through that area. Sometime later I learned that the 65th Infantry Regiment had been detailed to clean up those North Koreans who, by then, being without any source of supply from their own army, had become guerrillas.
20 Oct 1950 - We crossed the 38th Parallel into North Korea. Roads were very muddy from recent rain. We found I Corps Hq north of Sariwon where Col Bell reported to G-3 at about 1500 hours. Our Battalion was given the code name Native and attached to the 10th Antiaircraft Artillery Group (Noggin) made up of the 78th Antiaircraft Artillery Battalion (Nailhead) armed with 90mm guns, and the 9th Field Artillery Battalion (Natchez) armed with 155mm howitzers. The group acted as "division artillery" for the 1st ROK Division, which consisted of the 11th, 12th and 15th Regiments. We stopped for the night at Hwangju, North Korea, everyone having assembled by 2030 hours.
Some explanation as to code names may be helpful. Sometimes there was logic to the names given to the various units. The parent organization's code name would dictate the initial letter in the names of all its subordinate units. The letter N was used as the initial for all EUSAK, that is, Eighth United States Army in Korea, unit code names. The Turks were North Star and the Thais were Nutrition. I Corps was Jackson and IX Corps was Tempest. Never having been with X Corps, I don't know what its name was.
The 1st Cavalry Division was Saber, a symbol of the cavalry. Some of its subordinate units were Shamrock, Swing, Skirmish, Scrappy, Sapphire, Sandbag (their engineers) and Sulfa (their medics). The 2nd Infantry Division was Indianhead, part of the heraldry of their shoulder patch, and some of its subordinates were Ivanhoe, Ivory, Index, Indent and Inspire. The 7th Infantry Division was Bayonet, an infantry symbol, and it had Boss (its division artillery) and Buffalo (the 17th Infantry Regiment). The 24th Infantry Division was Danger and it had Duke, Dominoe, Doughboy, Diamond, Delta and Drake. The 25th Infantry Division was Lightning, part of the heraldry of its patch was a lightning bolt. Leader and Lumber (its engineers) were two of its subordinate units. Of course, there were many other names that I knew, but can't now remember, and many others that I never heard or saw.
We ran into a great traffic jam. Traffic going in either direction was at a standstill, and it stretched as far as I could see ahead of me as well as behind. Close by me, but headed in the opposite direction from that in which I was headed, was a tank. Never having had any contact with a tank before, I was quite unfamiliar with them, so I was interested in looking very closely at every feature of it.
Soon an officer with a walking stick probably five feet long came striding along toward us. He wore a soft cap rather than a helmet, and I could see no pistol or other weapon. I thought to myself, "Get a load of this jerk. Mr. Nonchalance. Making as if he were out on a Sunday afternoon jaunt through the hills. Must have seen too many English war movies."
When he got to the tank, he rapped five or six times with the flat of his stick on the flat top of the front portion of the tank's body. A man stuck his head, arms and chest out of the hatch in the tank's turret, and said, "Yeah?" The officer swung his stick around and pointed to the top of the ridge about three hundred yards to the left of and maybe five hundred yards to the rear of the tank, and asked, "See them gooks up on the ridge there?" (His language, not mine.) I, the man in the tank, and just about everyone else who heard him looked in that direction. I could see a strange jeeplike vehicle and a couple men. The tanker said, "Yeah." in a questioning tone of voice as if to add, "So what?" The officer then said, "If they're an FO, they could bring a lot of heavy stuff down on us here. We're like sitting ducks in this traffic jam. Think you can neutralize them?" "No sweat," said the tanker as he dropped back down into his tank.
With the whirring sound of its electric motor, the turret swung around, bringing the muzzle of its gun to point in the direction of the vehicle on the ridge. The sound of a man's voice giving numbers could be heard from inside the tank. A couple more sounds and a clank, which I interpreted to be the loading of the gun. Some more short whirring sounds as the muzzle was elevated somewhat and final adjustments were made. When the voice said, "Fire," the gun gave a loud bang and recoiled. A couple seconds later there was a loud explosion up on the ridge and the debris of men and vehicle went flying through the air. To the tanker who reappeared through his hatch the officer said, "Thank you," and walked back in the direction from which he had come. The "jerk" had just possibly saved our lives. I was impressed by the tank crew's gunnery.
21 Oct 1950 - Although Pyongyang, the North Korean capital, was claimed as being taken by the 1st Cavalry Division and the 1st ROK Division on the 19th, the street we were driving along was being cleared just ahead of us by a team of Middlesex soldiers operating with a Bren gun carrier. Fires were still burning, and a lot of utility wires were down in the street.
North of the city we met the 187th Airborne Infantry Regiment, the only paratroopers in Korea, walking south out of Sunch'on. Some 2800 troopers had parachuted into both that city and Sukch'on on the 20th. Their mission had been to rescue a large group of American and other U.N. soldiers being held prisoner by the North Koreans. Unfortunately, the prisoners had been cleared out of the area before the troopers jumped. They found 75 GI's executed at Sunch'on.
Some of the troopers asked us for food, but I couldn't understand why they should be hungry and out of food since they had just jumped yesterday. Had they jumped with no food in their packs? Not likely. We gave them none, saying that they were now going back into reserve and within an hour would have all that they needed, while we were hitting the line in their place and would need everything we had.
22 Oct 1950 - At Sunch'on, North Korea. We were moving north several miles every day trying to catch up with the retreating North Koreans.
23 Oct 1950 - At Kunuri, North Korea. Co A is with the 11th ROK Regiment, Co B is with the 15th and Co C is with the 12th.
24 Oct 1950 - Co B, northwest of Yongbyon, North Korea, fired its first mission just before noon.
25 Oct 1950 - Arrived Unsan, North Korea. The 40th parallel runs just north of town. This is the farthest north I would get during the war. On the playground, a grassy field in front of the school, I got knocked down, but not wounded, by flying debris hitting my leg during seven rounds of incoming artillery at about 1845 hours. More followed. When an artillery shell strikes the earth and explodes, not only do pieces of steel from the projectile fly in all directions at great speed, but so also do stones, dirt and anything else lying near the impact. If the shell explodes upon hitting a building or a tree, even a high branch of a tree, then in addition to the pieces of steel, there will be numerous pieces or slivers of wood or other material that will go flying, any of which could wound or kill a person. Company's A and C fired their first missions here.
By nightfall, we knew we were surrounded by an enemy force superior to ours, perhaps a corps made up of two Chinese divisions and one North Korean division. We were only the 1st ROK Division with its American "division artillery". We would remain surrounded until 30 October.
26 Oct 1950 - Artillery and mortar fire all day. We were getting low on ammunition. It was confirmed that Chinese soldiers were in front of us in all directions. This was the first report of Chinese Communist Forces units (as opposed to individual Chinese "volunteers") against American units on line anywhere in Korea.
27 Oct 1950 - Artillery and mortar fire continued all day. In the morning, ammunition and gasoline were parachuted to us from ten C-119 "Flying Boxcars". Some of it fell to the Chinese. Kicker crews were from the 187th Airborne Infantry Regiment.
In the afternoon Co A moved off its map toYongsongdong. Some explanation as to our maps might be helpful here. Our maps were of the scale 1:50,000, which means that a mile on the ground is about an inch and a quarter on the map. A single map sheet would represent an area 11.6 miles north and south and 13.7 miles east and west. Among my duties as intelligence sergeant was the responsibility to furnish each company with an adequate supply of the appropriate maps.
But back to Co A's need. I knew their coordinates as of when they had last radioed in, so, loading a supply of maps into my jeep, I took off alone in their direction to find them. Cresting a little hill, I saw a large throng of infantry down in the valley, perhaps five hundred yards ahead of me. I stopped the jeep and peered at them. I could see that they were not Americans, but I would not expect Americans since we were supporting ROK infantry. No American infantry was within our perimeter. But how could I tell friendly Asiatics from enemy Asiatics?
As I sat there, I saw that they were not paying any attention to me. They were either South Koreans or else very unobservant North Koreans or Chinese. Alone in a jeep with only a carbine, I felt wholly defenseless. The thought crossed my mind that perhaps the prudent thing would be to go back with the excuse that I had been blocked by enemy soldiers. But Co A needed those maps. They were helpless without maps. I eased forward and soon noticed that some of the men had pieces of yellow cloth pinned to their left shoulders. That meant they were 1st ROK Division. What a relief!
These men were probably of the 11th Regiment which was what Co A was supporting at the time. As I drove in among the men, many of them smiled and waved at me. I was nearly overcome with relief. One motioned to me to stop and asked if I would give some wounded a ride. Five men with various bandages climbed on. As I drove slowly along down the middle of the road with a file of troops on either side of me, I noticed that, while most men carried American M1 rifles, quite a few men had no weapons at all. Others had old swords, some had clubs and some had what looked to me to be farm pitchforks.
When we got to the head of the column, the wounded got off with profuse thanks and I continued on. Before long I came upon Co A with its vehicles lined up in the road. Passing their vehicles and waving and calling out to the men I knew, I got to the head of their column where I found Captain Ivan J. Cooper, the company commander. He was filled with gratitude when I handed him the precious maps.
An interesting little point is that I said that I had identified those men as being in the 1st ROK Division because some of them had pieces of yellow cloth pinned to their left shoulders. The operative word here is "pinned". American M1 rifle ammunition sometimes comes packed in bandoliers. That is, the cartridges are put into steel clips, eight to a clip and six clips are put into the six pockets of the bandolier. The bandolier is a belt comprised of six cloth pockets and a rather long strap of light webbing. It is sewed to form a complete circle. It is designed to be worn with one's head and one shoulder through the circle so that it hangs diagonally across one's chest.
The belt is rather long, long enough to accommodate a very large man who is wearing heavy winter clothing. To accommodate the other extreme, a small man in summer dress, and everyone in between, each bandolier has a fair sized black safety pin attached to it. The pin can then be used to "shorten" the belt to fit the man who has the bandolier. The bandolier is made of material strong enough to serve its purpose but flimsy enough not to be reused and therefore is to be thrown away after the ammunition has been removed. But one does not throw away the safety pin until one has a goodly supply of them in his pockets. Those pins have a myriad uses.
Let's return to maps and why they were so important. Generally, of the men in our Battalion, it is only the forward observer, the FO, who must see the target. But he need not see either the guns for which he is observing or the Fire Direction Center, the FDC, with whom he is in contact by radio. The FDC people need not see either the guns or the FO but are in contact with the guns by telephone and with the FO by radio. The people at the guns need not see either the FDC or the FO but are in contact with the FDC by telephone. There is no direct communication between the guns and the FO.
There are numbered red lines on the map running both horizontally and vertically to form a grid. The distance between these red lines represents one kilometer both north-south and east-west on the earth's surface. The way to communicate a point's location on a map to someone else is to give him the point's coordinates as read from these numbered red lines. The numbers of the lines get larger as they progress from the right edge to the left and from the bottom edge to the top of the map. The rule in determining co-ordinates is READ RIGHT UP.
Once you have found your point of interest on the map, look to see the number of the verticle red line that that point is to the right of. Let's say it is 34. Next, estimate how far that point is on its way to line 35. If it is 7/10, then the first half of that point's co-ordinates is 347. Now look to see the number of the red line the point is next above. Let's say it is 61. Next estimate how far that point is on its way to line 62. If it is 4/10, the last half of the co-ordinates is 614. If you give the co-ordinates 347614 to someone having a copy of the map you have, he will be able to plot on his map the location of the point of interest.
Since you are estimating by tenths the distance to the next red line, on average your margin of error won't exceed a half of a tenth. That maximum error on the ground is fifty meters, near within the maximum concussion range of the detonation of a high explosive 4.2 inch shell.
A word more about the concussion which I had mentioned earlier when I told of the development of the 4.2 inch projectile. With its quick fuse, the detonation of the shell on impact is so fast that almost no hole is made in the ground. But the concussion is so great that grass or other small vegetation within its range just disappears. Upon moving forward, we could sometimes be assured that it had been our shells that had killed those Chinese because the bodies were not torn apart but had bled from the eyes, ears, noses and mouths.
The FO gives the coordinates of his position to the FDC which plots it on its map. When the FO identifies a target, he determines its coordinates and gives them to the FDC which plots that location on its map. When the FDC gets the coordinates of the guns, their location is plotted on the same map. The FDC's position is not plotted on the map because it is not relevant. Each platoon has a man called its Horizontal Control Operator, or HCO, located at the FDC who does the plotting and computing for that platoon.
When the HCO has the FO, the target and the guns plotted on his map, he draws a line from guns to target, measures the length of that line and determines the ground distance that length represents. That is the range at which the guns must be fired. Range is adjusted by both the elevation of the mortar's barrel and the quantity of propellant on the shell. Since it was SOP that our guns always be fired at an elevation of 900 mils, that is, the gun barrel must be at an angle of 900 mils up from the horizontal, that variable as to range was eliminated.
Consulting a table, the HCO will determine how much propellent must be affixed to the shell in order to make it go that distance. He measures the angle that the gun-totarget line makes clockwise from magnetic north. That is the azimuth on which the guns must be aimed, subject to adjustment for drift. Drift is the shell's moving off to the right because it is spinning in flight. The mortar barrel's rifling imparts a clockwise spin, as viewed from the rear, to a projectile.
You may have noticed how a football, if you throw a spiral pass, will drift off to the right, if you are right handed, and off to the left if you are left handed. Often a single smoke shell will be fired off first. All of our shells, both HE (high explosive) and WP (white phosphorus) came fitted with the same kind of fuse, FUSE QUICK; so, since we had no choice as to fuses, we did not include fuse identification in a fire command.
An initial fire command from HCO to gun platoon sergeant might sound like this:
Number Three, One Round Shell WP Twelve Rings Deflection 6250
As the platoon sergeant hears each element of the fire command from the HCO over the phone, he shouts it so the whole platoon hears it and the HCO hears it back over the phone, thereby verifying that the command is being relayed correctly. All four gun crews will set their mortars on the azimuth of 6250 mils even though everyone knows that only number three gun will fire. When number three gun is ready to fire, its squad leader reports, "Nunber three ready." to the platoon sergeant who commands, "Fire!"
When the round has been fired, the platoon sergeant advises the HCO of that fact by telling him, "One round on the way." The HCO tells the FO, "Round on the way. Time of flight 22 seconds." This alerts the FO as to when he can expect his round to drop somewhere out in front of him. If the round drops right on target, the FO will tell the FDC to fire for effect.
The Fire Direction Officer, having been told by the FO the nature of the target, will decide which type and quantity of shell to fire to neutralize it. A single tank would not get the same treatment as an advancing battalion of troops. The command then might be:
Platoon Adjust Three rounds Shell HE Repeat Range Fire For Effect
These elements of the command mean that all four guns will fire, three rounds of HE pergun, same charge and azimuth as the first command, and fire them off as soon as ready. When all four guns have reported to the platoon sergeant that all their rounds are on the way, he reports to the HCO, "Rounds complete," and the HCO relays that fact to the FO.
But suppose that the single round of WP did not come close enough to the target. Picture the whole scene as being on the face of a clock. The target is in the center of the clock, the guns are on the six and the FO is on the three. Actually the FO probably would not be that far off to the side, but it makes for an easy-to-see example. Now let's suppose that the round drops a hundred yards to the right of the target as the FO sees it. After all, he's the only one of our cast of characters who must see it, and he is the man who is, in effect, in charge of this operation. He now radios his correcting adjustment to the FDC, "Left One Hundred."
The HCO looks at his map and thinks that if the FO wants it now one hundred yards left from where it hit, it must have hit one hundred yards right of the target. He plots that on his map and sees that from the guns' perspective, they're firing in the right direction, but too far by one hundred yards. He consults his table and finds that a reduction of one half ring of propellant will shorten the range one hundred yards.
Since this is a minor correction, the Fire Direction Officer will probably feel that no second zeroing-in round will be needed so when this first correction is made, the guns may fire for effect. The fire command now might be:
Platoon Adjust Three Rounds Shell HE Eleven and a Half Rings Fire For Effect
The Fire Direction Officer must keep a running record of the type and quantity of ammunition at each gun position so that he will know whether he can accept a target or must give it over to someone else.
An enemy attack in the 15th Regiment's sector at 2015 hours was repulsed after about two hours.
28 Oct 1950 - Enemy activity was limited to patrol action all around the perimeter. Continuous outgoing mortar and artillery. Enemy attack in 11th Regiment's sector from 2100 to 2300 hours. At about 2230 hours between Yongsongdong and Native CP, two of our ammunition trucks returning from the ASP caught one shell which landed in front of the second truck. Both front tires were blown out and the radiator was punctured by flying steel and/or stones. No casualties. Both trucks kept going and made it home. The driver of the second truck was kidded about how it was against Army Regulations to drive on flat tires or with an overheating engine. He didn't think it was very funny, saying something like, "What was I supposed to do? Stop and wait for the next round to come in on me?"
29 Oct 1950 - The enemy attacked the 11th Regiment again from 0600 to 0800 hours and the 15th Regiment at 1630 hours.
30 Oct 1950 - An enemy attack against the 15th Regiment at 2230 hours last night ended about 0400 hours this morning. Leading elements of the 8th Cavalry Regiment and its 99th Field Artillery Battalion entered Unsan about 1030 hours. What a relief! We now had American infantrymen with us. We were no longer surrounded. The enemy attacked against the border area between the 12th and 15th Regiments at 1500 hours and again at 2030 hours.
31 Oct 1950 - Enemy attacked 12th Regiment 0430 to 0630 hours. 12th Regiment counterattacked at noon. At 2030 hours a thousand enemy horse cavalry and two thousand infantry were reported swinging south around our right flank. An entire division was believed to be behind the attacking force. A 6000-yard front was being held by only four battalions of ROKS. There must have been great holes in our line.
1 Nov 1950 - A Chinese attack from 0230 to 0430 hours against the 8th Cavalry Regiment was repulsed by firing from Co's B and C, since the 99th Field Artillery arrived too late yesterday to get registered before dark.
Crushing night attack by Chinese. Co A had 6 EM and 1 officer MIA, 13 EM and 2 officers WIA, and lost all its mortars and half its vehicles. Co B lost its 3rd platoon, 23 EM and 2 officers MIA, 23 ROK EM and 1 ROK officer MIA. We referred to this as the Unsan Massacre.
While it was still dark, I was on the south side of the Kuryong River giving directions to an assembly point to elements of the gun companies as they came fording across the river. The 90mm guns of the 78th AAA Battalion (Nailhead) were to my right along the south bank of the river, with their barrels down to the horizontal, firing point blank at the Chinese on the north bank hardly fifty yards away. The blast of flame that came out of a barrel each time it was fired seemed to reach halfway to the other side of the river where its projectile detonated almost immediately after being fired. The noise was nearly deafening.
2 Nov 1950 - Assembled at Yongbyon, North Korea, where First Sgt Slick of Co B was busy trying to find or at least account for all his men. The losses of last night were determined. Capt Maurice E. Wilhelm and his driver, Bernie Montoya, were last seen trying to extricate Co B's third platoon. Since their names never appeared on any Chinese list of prisoners, it was assumed they were killed. An ROK soldier who had been with the third platoon managed to slip away from his captors and reported that when the Chinese learned who was in charge of the platoon, Master Sergeant Herman L. Brothers, they murdered him before taking the rest of their prisoners to the rear. This was the man who had occupied what I felt was my rightful place after I had changed places with Bradford Tyndall back in February.
Co A's missing officer was 1st Lt. George R. Deakin (remember the Constabulary officer?) who was taken prisoner and held 34 months before his release.
I knew that the Cavalry had been hard hit, but it was many years later that I learned that in this action the 8th Cavalry Regiment lost 865 killed or taken prisoner while its sister regiment, the 5th, lost 350. Over 1200 men. I don't know how many men those two regiments had at the time. Certainly they must have been well below full strength, having suffered casualties in earlier battles. Full strength of a regiment might have been about three thousand.
It seems pretty certain to me that if the Cavalry had not fought their way into Unsan on 30 October thereby being present to accept the crushing attack of the Chinese the night of 1 to 2 November, we, the men who had been surrounded, would have been the only ones there to sustain such casualties, and, since we Americans numbered only about fifteen hundred, we would have been wiped out. In this bit of conjecture I am assuming that the ROKs that were there would have done what they did and suffered such casualties as they did, though in truth I think they too would have suffered more if the Cavalry had not been there.
Spent the night at Suudong, North Korea. An estimated five Red divisions were coming from the north.
3 Nov 1950 - Left Suudong 1400 hours, arrived Yonghungni 1530 hours. We left the 1st ROK Division and became part of Task Force Allen.
A word about fording rivers. The ignition system of an internal combustion engine can "short out" and "die" if it gets wet. Therefore, vehicles are limited in the depth of water through which they may be driven. I've seen tanks go through water that was up to the top of their track treds, which would be four feet or more of water. Trucks, weapons carriers and jeeps can make it through only progressively shallower water.
To drive a jeep through as much as two feet of water, we would slip the engine's fan belt off its pulleys so that the fan, not spinning, could not throw water back onto the engine thereby getting the spark plugs wet. We would take the flexible spout of a gasoline can, ram it into the end of the jeep's exhaust pipe, and bend the spout up so as to in effect extend the exhaust pipe up several inches, hopefully to keep its opening above the surface of the water. The driver must then drive steadily through the water but slowly enough so that he doesn't create too high a "wall" of water in front of his vehicle.
A river can have natural places which are shallow enough to drive vehicles through. After a rain even those places may become too deep. Sometimes a ford has to be built. This can be done by creating what is in effect a submerged dam by dumping loads of stones and gravel, materials often readily available at a river, in the proposed roadway through the water. This is done with heavy equipment: bulldozers, loaders and dump trucks. A ford can also be built manually by using sacks of stones and gravel to raise the bottom of the river.
I must digress. Korea, at least the parts I saw, was a very primitive country in 1950. The most complex piece of manufacturing equipment I ever saw there was a machine which reminded me of a sausage grinder. Rice straw was put into the machine through a flared or funnel-shaped opening in its top. A large hand crank was turned, and out came a rope made of twisted straw. That's it. Some thirty years later the Koreans were building automobiles that competed for sales with American cars in the United States. I don't understand.
Anyway, such rope was used in many ways, one of which was to make mats on which people slept. A mat, perhaps thirty by fifty inches, could by folded over and sewed to make a sack thirty by twenty-five inches. Filled with stones and gravel, that sack, along with a large number of others like it, could make a ford. Can you imagine the amount of very hard work that was done at the ford site? How much do you suppose a filled sack weighed? Could two men handle it?
A driver had to watch where successful vehicles ahead of him were going. If he fell off the ford, he was in deep water, no pun intended. Driving through water gets the vehicle's brakes wet which renders them inoperable until they are again dry. Our routine was, as soon as we were well out of the ford's traffic jam, to drive along with a foot on the brake pedal, thereby heating the brakes and drying them out.
4 Nov 1950 - It rained last night and this morning. It was very cold. We left Yonghungni 0830 at hours and arrived at Kunuri at 1000 hours. The enemy assaulted Hill 622 but was repulsed with heavy losses. We left Kunuri before 1430 hours and arrived at Chongtongsan at 1600 hours. It was very cold and windy. A collection was taken up for blankets for the men of Co A since so much of their equipment and clothing had been lost.
Our Battalion was now with the 5th Regimental Combat Team of the 24th Infantry Division. A regimental combat team (RCT) is made up of an infantry regiment, an artillery battalion and a company of tanks. The RCT is known by the number designation of its infantry regiment.
5 Nov 1950 - Battalion Hq Co was divided into a small (less than 20 people) Forward section made up of the CO, S-2, S-3, communications officer, and selected enlisted assistants (I am the assistant to the S-2), and a much larger Rear section made up of everyone else. The Rear section pulled off line because the nature of their duties did not demand that they be up in an exposed position. With no guns and only half their vehicles, Co A went off line with the Rear section. My close friend, Sgt Howard J. Deis, is one of the "selected assistants" in the S-3 section.
Just in case you don't know what the staff numbers mean, let me say that S-1 refers to the adjutant or personnel section, S-2 is the intelligence section, S-3 is the plans and training or operations section, and S-4 is the logistics or supply section. If these sections are on a general's staff, the letter "S" is replaced by the letter "G".
Lewis C. Sutfin of Flint, Michigan, who had been with me at both Schierling and Hanau, Germany, had left the Army after coming back to the States, but was called back in for Korea. He was assigned to a hospital in South Korea which treated wounded North Korean and Chinese prisoners. He wrote to me that of their patients who had small arms fire wounds, more of the wounds were from carbines rather than from rifles. The doctors' explanation for that was that in general a rifle bullet did so much more damage that the wound would more often prove fatal before the man got to the hospital.
We were armed with carbines, but it was an easy matter to pick up an M1 rifle on the battlefield. My carbine went into my trailer, and I carried the rifle from then on.
6 Nov 1950 - The 5th Cavalry Regiment replaced the 5th RCT. No change in our positions. This was to be the way it would work all the while we were in Korea: When an infantry regiment that we were supporting got orders to pull off line, it would take its integral mortar company with it back to reserve while we would stay on line to support the next regiment coming up to take its place in line. As a result, our mortar companies were on line more time than a regiment's integral mortar company was. The men in the mortar companies integral to the infantry regiments were awarded the Combat Infantryman's Badge. Because we had the word Chemical in our name, our men were not awarded the Badge.
We did not fire chemical shells. We fired the same ammunition that the infantry's mortars did. Our men had the same MOS's (Military Occupation or Specialty) as the men in the infantry's mortar companies. However, the men in the cavalry regiments, including their integral mortar companies, were awarded the Badge, even though they had the word Cavalry in their name. Can someone explain that logic to me?
On 22 Jan 1953, a year and a half after I was rotated back to the States, the 2d Chemical Mortar Battalion was redesignated as the 461st Infantry Battalion (Heavy Mortar), and the mortarmen then serving in the Battalion were awarded the Badge.
During the period in Korea while it was known as the 2d Chemical Mortar Battalion, it had expended a total of 431,249 rounds of 4.2 inch mortar ammunition.
I can't put a date to it, but some time along here a terrible mistake was reported. The front lines of both us and the Chinese were not only rather close to each other, but also rather fluid, that is, they moved up and back almost continuously. This presented a problem for the pilots of our planes which were sent out on air strike missions, and perhaps even more so for those pilots who were out looking for targets of opportunity. Flying at a plane's speed, a pilot sometimes had difficulty telling who was who on the ground. We carried pairs of bright day-glo colored waterproof cloth panels which we were to lay out on the ground near our position to identify us to the pilots as UN troops.
The panels were red, orange and yellow. Each day we were told to use a different color pair of panels and to set them out in a different pattern: parallel or a cross or a T or an L. A pilot would know what colored pattern was to be used on the day he was flying, so he would not strike too near to panels of that day's color and pattern. I do not know the facts of this incident, but one day, apparently, one of our companies moved into a position and did not promptly set out its panels. An A-20 attack bomber appeared out of nowhere and either bombed them or strafed them. Someone dashed to set out the panels, and the plane disappeared. I don't know the extent of casualties, if any. I never saw an A-20 in Korea. I don't know if there were any. The plane may have been misidentified.
7 Nov 1950 - Co's B and C were in support of the 9th Infantry Rgmt. Fired harassing missions during the night.
8 and 9 Nov 1950 - Enemy activity was limited to small skirmishes and patrol action. A two-battalion attack on the far right was repulsed.
10 Nov 1950 - Small gain in the 9th Infantry Regiment sector. We were relieved from the 10th AAA Group and attached to the 1st Cavalry Division.
11 Nov 1950 - Armistice Day Volleys at 1100 hours. Each U.N. gun in Korea was to fire at 1100 hours in memory of the end of World War I. We contacted 1st Cavalry Division Artillery (Shamrock) at 2000 hours. Co C was put in support of 5th Cav (Swing) and Co B supported 7th Cav (Skirmish). Battalion Forward moved to the north side of Kunuri.
12 Nov 1950 - Co C crossed the Chongchon River.
13 Nov 1950 - Our medics and Co's B and C kitchens closed on Battalion Forward. Very cold.
14 Nov 1950 - Co C came back across the Chongchon. Both it and Co B were now restored to the 9th Infantry. Steady slow gains along front, not too much resistance. Around noon, an enemy force of regimental size attacked 6th ROK Division on our right. Three ROK companies withdrew a thousand yards.
15 Nov 1950 - There were more gains along the 9th Infantry front.
17 Nov 1950 - Very hard rain. Yongbyon was retaken by the 7th Cavalry Regiment.
18 Nov 1950 - We moved into Kunuri. More evidence of enemy infiltration. A ROK lieutenant with Co C talked with a Korean farmer who said last night a NK soldier with an M1 rifle slept at his house and said his destination was Sukch'on.
19 Nov 1950 - We moved to the railroad station at Pugwon. Co A arrived from Sukch'on. The 5th and 7th Cav were progressing but the 9th Infantry was meeting resistance.
20 Nov 1950 - At about 1200 hours an armed Communist soldier ran into a house in Co A's area. Capt Cooper and Sgt Pater entered after him and apprehended him. He had hidden his rifle, but a search was made and a small pack of papers and a picture book were found on him. Blankets and clothes, both civilian and military, were found in the house. The man was taken to the IPW at Index.
21 Nov 1950 - Nice weather. Our medics and ammo sections arrived from Sukch'on.
22 Nov 1950 - Co A was now refitted and the entire battalion was with the 9th Infantry Regiment. We were at Kang Jong, north of Yongdamni in the 54-11 square.
23 Nov 1950 - At Kang Jong. Thanksgiving Day dinner, turkey, dressing, gravy, cranberry sauce, the works. I don't know how the cooks did it. I ate while standing, with my messkit using the front fender of a weapons carrier as a table. We were on the southeast side of the Chongchon River where it flows from northeast to southwest. The river passes through a gorge there about fifty yards deep and three hundred yards wide at the top. We noticed some Chinese soldiers moving around on the top of the opposite bank, but we couldn't make out what they were doing.
Someone asked the colonel if he should pick off a couple with his rifle, but the colonel suggested that we enjoy our dinner while we could, saying that if we disturbed them, they might call in some heavy stuff on us. Someone else must have seen them too, because soon a flight of four F-80 Shooting Stars came and strafed, rocketed and napalmed them. The four planes set themselves up in a vertical circle like a Ferris wheel. Each time a plane came down, it unloaded on the Chinese. Some wag commented that this was the Korean version of dinner theater.
As part of General MacArthur's "Home by Christmas" campaign, the 2nd Division executed an all out attack led by a task force made up of the 9th Infantry Regiment, a company of tanks and our Co C. The attack progressed until the night of 25 November. Co C was surrounded from midnight til 0800 hours 26 November.
Enemy tactics were to fight at night by infiltrating UN positions and attacking on a bugle signal making plenty of noise. Very often there was more front line than we had soldiers to cover it. Gaps of hundreds of yards could exist between companies or even between platoons. Generally our riflemen would be on hilltops or along ridge lines.
Korea, being a hilly country in many places, had many little draws and valleys with streambeds. On dark nights, Chinese soldiers sometimes picked their way along these low places without being noticed by our men up on the heights. If the geography permitted it, the Chinese could pass through our lines and get to areas behind our lines where, since enemy soldiers were not expected there, security was not as alert. The Chinese were then in position to attack our line from both the front and the rear, or to cut off our route of supply or withdrawal.
26 Nov 1950 - Very cold. Northeast of Kunuri, the 9th Infantry was hard hit. Our Co A had 2 officers and 1 EM MIA. Co C had 6 MIA, 11 WIA, 1 POW, and lost all twelve of its mortars and most of its vehicles. One of Co C's MIA's was that magnificent soldier, Master Sergeant Hugh D. Whitacre, platoon sergeant of the second platoon. Whitacre got up on a weapons carrier where his 50 caliber machine gun was on a pedestal mount. He fired off two belts of ammunition, and while he was loading in a third belt, a hand grenade got him. His body was not recovered, so he was listed as missing. His name did not appear on any list of prisoners.
It was SOP that, as soon as a platoon pulled into a firing position, two men would be detailed to set up and serve the platoon's machine gun. I don't know why Whitacre was firing that gun. Possibly the two men had already been wounded.
28 Nov 1950 - I saw the Turks in Kunuri and the British south of town by the bridge. The 2nd Infantry Division was taking a terrific beating and withdrew to a new defense line.
29 Nov 1950 - Now with the 23rd RCT of the 2nd Infantry Division in a defensive line north of Kunuri. March ordered at about 1800 hours south along the Anju road, closing at about 0930 hours on November 30 near Sukch'on. That's over fifteen hours on the road overnight in the bitter cold.
Many years later I learned that the 2nd Infantry Division lost 4,920 men during the three days of November 29 through December 1 at Kunuri. That statistic, I think, covers the division's experience at the "gauntlet", which was a section of the road south from Kunuri to Sunch'on that was held on both sides by the Chinese. I don't know how many more it would have been if that statistic had included from 26 November. An infantry division at full strength was about thirteen thousand, but the 2nd was down to about seven thousand men at Thanksgiving, having been in previous battles.
Someone pointed at a jeep with five men in it and said, "There goes I Company of the 9th." Full strength of a rifle company was 211 officers and men.
The gauntlet was several miles of that roadway, intended as the division's route of withdrawal, in the field of fire of a large number of Chinese who had been able to pass through and/or around the 2nd Division and line up on the hills and ridgelines along both sides of the road. The Turks were the first to come under fire as they attempted to use the road. As the 2nd Division's units came down the road, the Chinese would disable the American vehicles and kill the men almost at leisure. Wherever possible, tanks would shove disabled vehicles off the road attempting to clear it. The Chinese must have carried an awful lot of ammunition with them when they made their infiltration.
Our Battalion was indeed fortunate that we had received instructions to take the Anju road out of Kunuri. We thus were spared the trauma of the gauntlet.
It was this Kunuri action which started the saying, "If you have a son in Korea, write to him. If he's in the 2nd Division, pray for him."
Another method of infiltration that had been used by our enemy was to place soldiers dressed as peasants in crowds of refugees. Crowds of refugees were almost a barometer letting us know that an attack was coming. It seemed reasonable to me that Korean civilians, North or South, carrying whatever was important to them, would try to get away from the fighting. But I suspect that our enemy took advantage of that and actually drove the civilian population toward our line, and then the civilians kept on walking to get away from the line, thereby getting behind our line. There's no way for me to know whether any refugees ever went north through our enemy's line instead of south through ours.
At any rate, sometimes we would see men of military age dressed in peasant clothes walking along in a crowd of refugees. There were all sorts of horror stories of infiltrators in among the refugees. One story I remember involved a boy of twelve or so who, either voluntarily or pressed into service, walked along near a disguised North Korean soldier. The boy carried an A-frame whose load was covered by a cloth. At a signal, the boy dropped to his hands and knees. The NK soldier threw off the cloth, revealing a machine gun which he used to some effect on some unsuspecting Americans. I don't suppose all the stories were true, but...
30 Nov 1950 - Bitter cold. Traffic very heavy. Now with the 27th British Commonwealth Brigade (Nottingham), made up of the Middlesex Regiment, the Royal Australian Regiment and the Argyll and Sutherland Highlander Regiment, north of Sukch'on. Each of these regiments was of only battalion size, so the whole brigade was equal in numbers to only one regiment. The Brigade's and our mission was to be a rear guard for withdrawing troops.
The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders came into being on July 1, 1881, an amalgamation of the 91st Argyllshire Highlanders and the 93rd Sutherland Highlanders. The 93rd had fought against Andrew Jackson at New Orleans on January 8, 1815, sustaining more than a quarter of all British casualties that day. It had been the "thin red line" at the battle of Balaclava on October 25, 1854 in the Crimean War, a battle perhaps better remembered for the unfortunate "Charge of the Light Brigade".
Three times I saw and heard their piper leading them along the road, a stirring sound and sight. One night I and a couple others were invited over for a half-hour or so of piping. There were less than ten of us, mostly Scottish officers, in a pyramidal tent for the entertainment. We sat in silence as the piper, facing away from us, played his unique music. At the end of the performance, there was a quiet shaking of hands all around, except with the piper, and we left. No applause or thanks to the piper. I suppose that was the correct protocol, but I thought it strange, almost reverent.
1 Dec 1950 - Nine miles north of Sainjang, North Korea.
2 Dec 1950 - Moved south through Sainjang and east about seven and a half miles to Ap'ari, North Korea. Snowed during the night.
3 Dec 1950 - More snow.
4 Dec 1950 - Withdrew to Hayuri, south of Pyongyang.
6 Dec 1950 - Left Hayuri 1720 hours, moved 19 miles south arriving at 2100 hours.
8 Dec 1950 - Withdrew south at 0700 hours, arriving 0900 hours at Sibyon-ni, North Korea. Cleaned up today.
9 Dec 1950 - Talked with Scottish 3-inch mortar men set up next to us. Fifteen hundred to two thousand North Koreans are reported in town four miles north of us. That's out of our range. The British 17 pounders fired a few rounds.
11 Dec 1950 - Moved south of the 38th parallel to Uijongbu, South Korea. Uijongbu is the name of a town that was often mentioned in the television series "M*A*S*H" (Mobile Army Surgical Hospital). The television MASH was the 4077th, which I never saw or heard of, so possibly was a fictitious one made up for the story. Hawkeye and the other characters of the 4077th sometimes referred to their sister MASH, the 8063rd, which was indeed a real MASH in Korea.
12 Dec 1950 - Because of casualties, our gun companies were running low on manpower, so Col Bell stripped as many men as he could out of Hq Co. and gave them to the gun companies. I was transferred from Hq Co to Co C, Capt Aethra C. Snow, commanding, at Uijongbu, South Korea. I reported to Capt Snow in his CP tent where he welcomed me warmly. Pulling a bottle of whiskey out from somewhere, he raised it saying, "Here's to a long life in Charlie Company." Where do these people get whiskey on the front line? Co C had been without mortars for over two weeks, since the 26th of November.
14 Dec 1950 - With Capt Clair L. George (the S-4), Capt Snow, Sgt Ellwood Hebda (the S-4 sergeant) and 34 men from Co C, and myself as NCO in charge, I left by truck convoy to go to Pusan. When seven miles south of Taejon, we waited from 1900 hours to 0300 hours because the road was blocked. A six-ton truck of the 29th British Brigade (Newmarket) had slipped off the road, and the equipment needed to winch the big truck back up onto the road filled the entire roadway. Often in Korea the roads were several feet above the level of the rice paddies or other fields. They were also quite narrow, hardly wide enough for traffic moving in opposite directions to pass each other. They had not been built for a modern war.
15 Dec 1950 - We arrived at the 95th Chemical Company in Pusan in the evening where I visited with First Sergeant Rodzinak and Sergeant Cannon, two men with whom I had served at Hanau, Germany. Cannon had been in my mortar squad there. I got the first shower I had in Korea.
16 Dec 1950 - We picked up new vehicles (to replace those lost on 26 Nov) at the 1st Ordnance Base Depot. I got a Dodge ¾-ton weapons carrier, brand new.
17 Dec 1950 - We left Pusan and arrived at Taegu where we refueled the vehicles and slept at EUSAK.
18 Dec 1950 - We left Taegu and arrived at Taejon. Lots of wet snow. We refueled and slept at an ordnance station.
19 Dec 1950 - We left Taejon. The roads were very slippery. Three of our weapons carriers went over the side. All were pulled back onto the road by our 2½-ton truck that had a winch on its front. I led the convoy approximately 50 miles to Suwon where we had a C-ration supper. We rejoined Co C at Ichon.
20 Dec 1950 - Normally a mortar company is organized as three platoons of four guns each. Because of losses, Co C did not have enough men to serve twelve guns, so we were organized as only two platoons. Each platoon should have two officers who would normally alternate between commanding the gun crews and acting as forward observer. Because of the shortage of officers, each platoon could have only one officer who would act as forward observer, and the platoon sergeant will command the guns with no officer. John A. Dailey will continue as platoon sergeant of the 1st platoon and I will be the platoon sergeant of the 2nd platoon, Whitacre's old position. I felt I would not try to take Whitacre's place. I would make my own place.
We got in twelve new mortars even though we could man only eight of them. The guns still had in them the cosmoline which had been put into them back in the States prior to their being shipped to Korea. Cosmoline is a very thick, heavy grease used to protect weapons from rusting. In the cold it was so stiff that it had to be cut and scraped off with bayonets. When most had been removed in that manner, the last could be washed off with gasoline. Even so, some gun barrels had a little rust in them.
To get rust out of a steel tube 4.2 inches in diameter and four feet long presented a problem, so, as we were working, I suggested to Capt Snow that, since the rust was not thick enough to prevent firing, we should shoot the rust out. My only motive was to remove the rust in as easy a way as possible. Capt Snow seized upon my suggestion as an opportunity for a morale boost, so to speak. In a loud voice he called out words like, "That's the kind of spirit I want to see in this company! Sergeant Hulsman wants us to shoot the rust out of these barrels!" A great cheer went up from the men, and I wondered whether the captain had gotten his desired effect or if the men had recognized my real reason for the suggestion.
We moved out to Uijongbu in support of the Argylls.
21 Dec 1950 - I went back to Battalion Rear at Ichon to have a painful tooth looked at.
22 Dec 1950 - Battalion Rear had a 2½-ton truck which it wanted to give to Co C, so instead of my being driven by jeep back to my company, I drove the truck up to Uijongbu, approximately sixty miles.
23 Dec 1950 - While on reconnaisance to find a new position to our left, my driver, George Lesser, and I drove south before driving east, so that we would not be driving right along the front line. While driving east, we were stopped by an MP near a medical aid station. Though I explained my purpose in using the road, he, without any explanation, would not let us proceed. So we took off through the rice paddies, now drained and quite hard, in order to go around the medics' tent at some distance. Later we learned that Lt Gen Walton Walker, Commanding General of the Eighth Army, had been killed in a traffic accident, and his body had been lying in that tent at the time we were there. It reminded us of General Patton.
25 Dec 1950 - Swell Christmas dinner. Windy and quite cold. There was a report that enemy forces had come down across the 38th Parallel and returned north again.
26 Dec 1950 - We struck camp and prepared to withdraw. Then an order came that we would stay, so we put up camp again. "Putting up camp" at this point meant erecting a squad tent which we had just gotten. The whole platoon, except the two men on the machine gun, could get in the one tent, if they were friendly. I think we had the tent about three nights, after which Capt Snow decided it was too dangerous to be in a tent. We, or at least some of us, agreed.
Sometime along about here we entered a small village where we came upon a pile of unshelled peanuts about four feet high and ten feet in diameter. My men, mostly New Englanders who knew nothing about growing peanuts, busied themselves immediately in filling their pockets. They would not believe my warning that they would not like them. Later, to, "How come these taste so bad?" I had to explain to them that these peanuts were raw as they had had nothing done to them since they had come out of the ground.
The peanuts with which the men were familiar were either roasted, or deep fried in oil or boiled in water. In answer to, "What do you mean, ‘come out of the ground'?" I had to tell them that peanuts do not come from trees as other nuts do, but rather that they grow underground like potatoes. Not one of them could stand to eat the raw nuts, so they emptied their pockets with some lingering disbelief because, "They look so good." If I had had a bunch of Georgia farm boys, they would have enjoyed eating the raw peanuts.
28 Dec 1950 - Col. Bell told us that we would be part of the Seoul perimeter.
31 Dec 1950 - We were alerted to be the protection of the Han River bridge.
At the end of the year our Battalion had 23 officers and 338 enlisted men, a total of 361. Our full authorized strength (one might say the strength the Army felt was necessary to perform our mission) was 732.
1 Jan 1951 - At 0700 hours we were alerted that we would move north at 0815 hours. We left at 1100 hours and moved north to Sanbongni where we fired using charges from 9¼ rings down to 6 rings. That would be ranges of about 1800 yards down to about 1200 yards.
2 Jan 1951 - We left Sanbongni at 0115 hours and traveled south to just north of Seoul where we arrived at 0330 hours. We often moved at night like this. Bitter cold.
Sometimes the administrative wheels of the Army can turn rather slowly. With nearly five years of service, I was today awarded the Good Conduct Medal for "exemplary behavior, efficiency and fidelity, in an enlisted status for a period of three continous years". Twenty-seven other men, a few with more service than I, received the medal too. Actually, we didn't get the medal itself, we got a copy of the General Order saying that it was awarded to us. In my position as first sergeant back in Hanau, Germany, I was able to see the service records of many men who had served during World War II. It appeared to be commonplace during World War II to award the medal at the end of basic training with only three months service.
Having been too busy yesterday, we had a New Years Day dinner today. That night I "won" a coin toss with John Dailey, so I got the "honor" of taking my platoon off on detached service to the 19th Infantry Regiment at Toksongni where we had great difficulty crossing a stream in the dark. Several of my men got soaked up to their thighs, the water immediately freezing on them. After 2200 hours, with Chinese flares going off, we hand carried our mortars and ammunition (no vehicles were allowed up here) up onto a hilltop and set up in the dark.
Certainly it was no mortar man who had selected our gun position. Had it been left to me, I would have set up down on the flat land and fired over the hill. But it was pitch black and I didn't know where I was, not having had any opportunity to make a reconnaissance. It is quite difficult and time consuming to get the guns set up and sighted in the dark. As to carrying them, let me say that a baseplate weighs 175 pounds, a barrel weighs 105 pounds and a standard with its elevating and traversing mechanisms weighs 53 pounds. Each round of ammunition weighs 24.5 pounds. Rounds came packed in paper/fibre cylinders, two to a wooden box, with a full box weighing 68.6 pounds. I can't even guess how many trips we made carrying all this materiel up onto the hill. In the bitter cold with no sleeping bag or blankets, I lay down in the snow to nap from 0500 hours to 0715 hours of 3 January.
3 Jan 1951 - The Chinese hit between Fox and George companies of the 19th Infantry, and we fired with charges from 20¾ down to 12 rings. Since it was daylight, a 2½-ton truck was permitted to come up to the bottom of the hill, and we carried our guns and remaining ammunition down to it. After the truck, loaded with our guns and ammunition, left, we waited for other transport to take us out. While waiting in the quiet without a radio, we heard a tank's engine. Not knowing whose it was, we hid in a frozen-over stream which had banks about three feet high.
As the tank approached, coming from our front, I peered out and, to my great joy, since we had no weapon to combat it, recognized it as American. The tankers were surprised to see us, saying that everyone had pulled back and that no one but Chinese were behind them. Since they had a radio, I believed them. We, about fifteen of us, accepted their invitation to climb aboard. As we rode back to our infantry, I watched for the truck that was to have come for us, not wanting the driver and his "shotgun" to drive into a dangerous area only to not find us there. We met no truck. What would have happened to us if that tank hadn't come along? In the bitter cold, the infantry gave us rides all night in their weapons carriers.
4 Jan 1951 - We crossed to the south side of the Han River and got back to Co C where we were reunited with our mortars and ammunition.
5 Jan 1951 - At Naedongni. I cleaned up a little.
When I was transferred from Hq Co. to Co C, several other men were transferred along with me. One such man was PFC George Lesser who had been an ammunition truck driver in Hq Co. I knew him rather well and was not surprised when he asked me if he could be my driver. When I told him that a platoon sergeant's driver was also the platoon's instrument corporal, he said something like, "So teach me." Since my new platoon had lost its instrument corporal at Kunuri, and therefore needed a new one, I agreed.
The reader should understand that the business of firing modern (that is, modern in 1950) artillery pieces, and for this purpose the heavy mortar is included, is rather technical and mathematically complex. An optical instrument, called an aiming circle and somewhat similar to a surveyor's transit, is used. The instrument stands on a tripod and contains a magnetic compass, a leveling mechanism and a three power telescope. To keep the instrument steady, we would extend its telescopic legs only part way out so that it stood only about thirty inches high.
That necessitated our kneeling or sitting behind it in order to use it. To use the instrument, the bottom portion of it must be oriented, that is, zero on its scale must be set at magnetic north and then fixed in that position. The top portion of the instrument, which contains the telescope, can swivel around the bottom portion 360 degrees, or, since a degree is too large a measure to use for this purpose, 6400 mils. A mil, therefore, is about an 18th of a degree. A mil is defined as the angle which, when extended one thousand yards, will open one yard. That definition is not quite precise because a circle with a radius of one thousand yards will have a circumference of 6283 yards, and a polygon with 6400 sides that would just fit in that circle would have a perimeter of something less than 6283 yards because a chord of a circle is shorter than its arc. But that is splitting hairs.
George learned very quickly to be both fast and accurate in the use of the aiming circle. Upon receiving a march order, the command to pack up and be ready to move out, one of the instrument corporal's duties is to carefully pack the aiming circle in its case and stow it securely in the platoon sergeant's jeep. Yes, I know I split an infinitive there. That's a very common mistake of mine.
Some further explanation might be helpful here. When a mortar platoon arrives at a new position, everyone is feverishly busy. The platoon is worthless until it has set up its guns, gotten into communication with the Fire Direction Center and registered or laid its guns. The guns are laid when they are pointed on the precise azimuth the FDC has ordered. To accomplish this everyone has certain things he must do as part of the total effort.
Two men will set up and man the machine gun in a position selected by the platoon sergeant. If enemy infantry come in on us, we have to have some fire power ready for them. Each squad, or gun crew, has two jeeps with trailers, one for the mortar and the other for its ammunition. The gun crews unload the mortars from their trailers and set them up in the general direction of fire. They don't know the precise direction yet.
The ammo men unload the boxes of ammunition from their trailers and unpack several rounds. The communication men install a telephone wire to the FDC. They attach a two-strand wire to a telephone at the platoon sergeant's position and then run with the reel, paying out the wire onto the ground as they go, to the FDC where they will attach the wire to an FDC phone. They will then ring up the gun position to verify that they are in contact. Two men do this to assure that it gets done. If only one man went out with the reel and he got hit, no one would know until the platoon sergeant would begin to wonder why he wasn't yet in contact with the FDC. Valuable time would be wasted.
The first order from the FDC is the precise azimuth on which the guns are to be pointed. In the meantime the instrument corporal has set up his aiming circle, leveled it and fixed his lower portion's zero on magnetic north. Setting his upper portion on the azimuth given by the FDC, he then begins to lay each gun in a process too complicated for me to put into words. When all four guns are aimed precisely on the azimuth given by the FDC, the platoon sergeant reports to the FDC that "the guns are laid." The platoon is then ready for a fire mission.
If the situation is such that the wire party cannot install a telephone wire, communication will be done using the radio. This is not as efficient because it takes more time to use radio procedure, and one must wait for radio tubes to light up again after each time a switch is turned. Besides, voice over the radio sometimes fades or is subject to static.
Sometimes the FDC is at such a distance from the platoon that the wire is payed out while riding in a jeep. If possible the wire will be strung out beside the road so that traffic will not break the wire. Sometimes I've seen thirty or more telephone wires lying in a ditch. They are vulnerable to two things: an enemy shell might land on them, or a friendly tank could drive off the road to go across the paddies. Having no wheels, a tank must turn by braking one track, thereby sort of grinding around its turn. If that grinding is done on the telephone wires, only something resembling spaghetti is left of them.
When a telephone goes dead, chances are that the wire is broken somewhere. A man from each end of the wire puts his gloved hand around the wire and starts to run along the course of the wire, allowing the wire to slip through his hand as he runs. When he gets to the break, he sits down to wait for the man coming from the other end. Since all phone wire looks alike, there is no point in trying to find the rest of your wire. When the other man appears, the two ends are spliced. Can you imagine the congregation of wire-splicing men at a place where a tank just pulled off the road?
The order to move is "March Order", or more fully, "Close Station March Order". Close Station is directed at the communications people. They are to disconnect their telephone and start reeling in their telephone wire, that is, if the tactical situation permits it. If the situation is such that you must get out as quickly as possible, just abandon the wire. It's not worth your life.
At the March Order command, aiming stakes are brought in, the guns are dismantled and loaded onto the trailers, the ammo is packed up and loaded onto its trailers, and last, the machine gun is brought in and stowed in the platoon sergeant's trailer.
6 Jan 1951 - Captain Snow led my platoon out onto the road and toward our new position this morning. Generally I had no officer to lead us in a move. I normally would lead my men out, leaving my fourth squad leader to bring up the rear. When an officer is on the scene, the platoon sergeant is the last to leave a position so that he can see that everyone is on the road and no one is suffering any mishap. If someone is having difficulty, the platoon sergeant is to deal with it. This day my jeep would not go. George tore around front and threw up the hood. In almost no time he identified the problem. The linkage between the accelerator and the carburetor had parted. With not a thing to fix it, he told me to drive and he would sit on the fender and keep the linkage together with his fingers. So he sat there with his bayonet scabbard banging in the fan, while I peered out around him to see where I was going, the upraised hood of the jeep completely obscuring the whole of the windshield. We drove as fast as we could in order to catch up with the platoon. I did not know our destination, and it was imperative that we not get lost. The platoon was helpless without our aiming circle. As we passed through the British infantry, many of the soldiers yelled at us. The only call I remember was, "What are you going to do when you get there?" We did catch up with the platoon and all was well. My mustache had icicles in it.
Near the village of Changhowon-ni, as we were setting up our mortars, we set up our 50 caliber machine gun behind the mound of a Korean grave on the north side of a hill just behind us. I felt that the grave would give the gun some rampart-like protection. A little explanation about such a grave might be helpful.
Out in the countryside one can often see individual graves, that is, not in cemeteries. Generally such a gravesite is perhaps halfway up a hill. Earth is dug out so as to provide a circular flat place maybe ten or so feet in diameter. The corpse is placed in a sitting position in the center of the circle facing out away from the hill. The dug out dirt is then used to cover the corpse with a hemispherical mound perhaps four feet high. More of the dirt is used to build a connection between the mound and the hillside behind it. The connecting mound, perhaps only half as high as the main mound, is in the shape of a half cylinder lying on its flat side.
Between the machine gun and the connecting mound, we set up a gasoline-fueled stove with four sections of chimney pipe. During the night I relieved one of my men on guard at the gun. I can't now remember why only one man sat behind the gun that night. As I sat there looking out at the white landscape, straining to see if any of those bushes were Chinese soldiers, an explosion went off right beside me. My face burned, and I looked at my left sleeve to see that it was covered with a dark stain which had to be blood. I was sure I had been hit by a hand grenade. Almost immediately, however, I smelled the pleasing aroma of cooked beef. The man on guard whom I had relieved had left a can of C-ration hamburger patties in gravy on the stove. It had apparently fallen off to become wedged between the stove and the connecting mound where it continued to be heated until it got so hot it exploded. When I realized what had happened, and that the "blood" on my sleeve was beef gravy, I was quite relieved and took the whole thing as a joke.
8 Jan 1951 - I went on recon in the morning. We moved around to the south side of the hill. The plan was for the Argylls to wait for the Chinese and at the last minute withdraw so we could blast them. My guns were set up in a dry rocky river bottom. I would not have selected this position. At this late date I can't remember who had picked it out, but it had to be someone with more rank than mine. I didn't like this place. If we were to fire here, we were liable to break our mortars because their spades would not be able to dig into the dirt, but rather strike the stones.
The Chinese on our right were twenty miles to our rear. The 19th Infantry Regiment, the 27th British Brigade and we were the only ones there. The nearest other friendly troops were nearly thirty miles to our rear. Who knew that we were there? Why were we not ordered to withdraw back into line? Was this to be another Unsan Massacre?
We were near a destroyed bridge. Some tanks, in going around the bridge, came down into the river bottom close to our guns. As they slowly and laboriously maneuvered through the river bottom, one of the tanks ground a turn next to a rock which would not give. The tank's track slipped off its sprocket and the tank couldn't move. A dozen or more men got out of the tanks to survey the damage, but there was no way they could get the track back in place. Temporarily abandoning the tank, the others continued on their way south. In a few hours a tank retriever came up and hauled the disabled tank away.
9 Jan 1951 - The Argylls were not attacked last night, so we didn't have to fire in that rocky position. It rained last night, and we got soaked. 1st Lt William E. King left at 0700 hours for a two-day recon. Big wet snow flakes today.
10 Jan 1951 - Eight inches of snow. Very cold. We were still wet from the rain. We made cocoa from snow over canned heat.
In January, Col Bell wrote a letter to E. F .Bullene (remember him? He was our post commander back at Edgewood) who by now was a major general and was the Chief Chemical Officer in Washington. In it he wrote, "Frequently in Korea, the infantry heavy mortar companies have been attached to my battalion for operational control. Of course, when this is done, the more dangerous assignments were given to our own companies. It is common practice for us to operate jointly with the observers of the heavy mortar companies, their fire direction centers, communication centers and ammunition re-supply. Occasionally we perform the security missions for an infantry mortar platoon, and once we manned their mortars for them. It is interesting to note that we are able to keep eight mortars per company in action with present for duty strengths averaging less than eighty enlisted men per mortar company. The infantry mortar companies usually run 120 to 155 men and only attempt to keep five or six mortars in action."
The authorized strength of a chemical mortar company was 171 officers and enlisted men. So we were below half strength but keeping two thirds of our mortars in action.
11 Jan 1951 - Radio reports were that two hundred Red tanks were south of the river at Seoul. A 5th RCT patrol reported having sighted a hundred dromedaries. Very cold. We started our vehicle engines every three hours and kept them running until operating temperature was reached. It would be catastrophic if we had to get out in a hurry and couldn't get our engines started. We'd have to abandon everything.
12 Jan 1951 - Artillery shells in flight are affected by air temperature/humidity and wind direction/velocity. Consequently, artillery units have meteorological sections to provide such information on a continuing basis. Our mortars are of such short range that we are not concerned with such information. An artillery unit behind us told us that the temperature reached minus 47 degrees last night. We knew it was very cold last night because we couldn't start any of our vehicles. We had to pull them with a weapons carrier this morning in order to start them. Now we start them every hour.
We got thin soup and mince meat pie for supper. Our kitchen must not have been receiving its supplies.
Two companies of the second battalion of the 5th Infantry Regiment were dug in in front of us. We were facing west.
Some commentary about living out in such cold weather. We were not permitted to have open fires at night for obvious reasons. At first light, the men on guard would arouse a couple of men who would start a fire to which everyone would come and crowd around. Men would get out of their sleeping bags, having taken only their boots off prior to getting into the bags, and walk through the snow in their stocking feet, carrying their boots, to the fire. There was no danger of their getting their feet wet in the process because none of the snow was going to melt. The boots would be dropped close to the fire in order to thaw out and become pliable enough to put on. Then with boots on our feet, we would stand as close to the fire as we could get.
Crowding so closely, sometimes a man would lose his balance in the jostling and step into the fire much to the uproarious laughter of the others. We would stand so close to the fire that we would have to turn our faces away to avoid the painful heat. More than one man burned the toes of his boots out because he was not alert enough to realize what was happening.
One of my most prized possessions, for a short time, was a ChapStick that my mother had sent to me. I carried it in my front pants pocket. By my standing so close to the fire, the balm melted out of its metal tube, and all I had left was a big waxy blotch in my pants leg. That, coupled with my gravy stained sleeve and splattered coat, made me something of a mess even before considering the other dirt.
I had four pairs of heavy woolen socks which I wore two pairs at a time. The two pairs not being worn would be carried between my undershirt and the skin of my chest. Our boots were shoepacks, rubber feet with leather tops. Being rubber, that's why their toes were so readily burned out. They were also called mucklucks. They were fine except that one's feet sweated in them if one was at all active. The inside of the shoepacks and one's socks would get quite wet with sweat. My routine was to take my boots off at night, remove my wet socks, wring them out, take my somewhat dry socks out from under my undershirt, put them on, put the just-taken-off wet socks in under my undershirt, get into my sleeping bag still wearing all other clothing including coat with parka, but without helmet, and then try to go to sleep. Can you imagine what I smelled like? The wet boots would then freeze overnight, which explains the need to thaw them the next morning. Often I would wake up with severe pains in my shoulders and elbows. I wondered if I was getting rheumatism.
Finding fuel for fires was often a problem. The wooden boxes in which our mortar ammunition came, two rounds to a box, were a very good fuel. We often, however, could not pick up the empty boxes and bring them along when we moved to another position. There were instances when we would partially dismantle a house or some other building if we were near a village. A telephone pole was ideal, but few roads had them. Sometimes we would burn straw or millet stalks or some cane-like plant similar to corn stalks. They were quite unsatisfactory though.
15 Jan 1951 - The men of the 5th Infantry moved away. There were now no friendly riflemen in front of us, and we would continue to be unprotected until the 31st of January when we moved away ourselves. Lennie Moran wrecked a jeep. I shot a ring-necked pheasant with a carbine and sent it back to the kitchen. The situation on line deteriorated to the point where food could not be brought up to the gun position, so the cooks ate it. They liked it.
A word here about mealtime might be helpful. Being a cook must have been frustrating at times because the cooks often would not know if the food they were preparing would get taken up on line to be eaten. They had large insulated cans with sealed lids, called Marmite cans, to carry the food from kitchen to troops, but sometimes the situation on line would not permit them to bring the food up or the men on line to eat it if they had. There were times when the cooks were told not to prepare anything because the situation on line was just too busy. Men on line generally had C-rations which they could, and did, eat at almost any time of day or night.
Sometimes the cooks, with little warning, were told that a "window of opportunity" was about to present itself, and so had to scurry around to get something together for the men. As a result of this lack of a fixed mealtime schedule, I - and I'm sure many others did the same - carried my knife, fork and spoon in my breast pocket so that I might be always prepared if food should ever appear. The mess kit was too large to put in one's pocket, so often was not handy when food might arrive. More than once I ate meat, potatoes and gravy out of my canteen cup (it was always, along with my canteen, hanging at my belt) and then drink coffee out of it without washing the cup in between.
Obviously if we were on the move, we could not eat even though moving did not postpone our getting hungry. Moving was always a dangerous time because we then were in no position to defend ourselves against attack.
16 Jan 1951 - Saw F-86's, the new Saberjet, in the sky over us today. Co C's first officer replacement, Lt Henry, arrived. The weather changed and it got quite foggy over much of the line. Aerial observation became ineffective, so we had to send walking patrols out to see where the Chinese were and what they were doing. We were still far forward of the line to either side of us.
16, 17, 19, 22, 23, 24, 25, 27, 28, 29, and 30 January 1951 - Walking patrols of ten or twelve men were sent out, of which I led five. Going out into the fog on patrol was, I thought, the most frightening thing I had to do in Korea.
Prior to starting off, I would take a moment to pray, "Lord, please give me the wisdom, the courage and the strength to cope with this day." I needed wisdom so that I wouldn't do anything foolish thereby getting someone hurt. I needed courage, or maybe it was just plain discipline, to walk out there and do this thing. I needed physical strength in order to plod through the snow with my rifle, 184 rounds of ammunition and four hand grenades. Maybe I would need the strength to carry the radio, or perhaps a man, back in. It was incredibly difficult just to get up off the ground and say to my men, "Let's move out." and then start walking. When we passed by our machine gun crew, we'd say something like, "Make sure you let us back in." to which they would respond, "Yeah, in your dreams." or "Who are you again?"
The heaviest weapon carried on patrol was only a Browning Automatic Rifle. We took along a radio, an SCR-300, which we would drop to the ground as soon as we were behind a couple hills and therefore out of contact. We'd pick it up on our way back. It was really scary to be out there with such a small group with no way to call for help. Talk about having to rely on your own selves. Altogether nine prisoners were brought in, none by my patrols.
17 Jan 1951 - I got five EM replacements.
18 Jan 1951 - Last night's replacements were Crabbe, Hoopes, Ortega, Lingenfelter, Brooks and Elliott. Yes, I know. My diary says I got five men last night and now it has six names. I can't explain it. I got two more EM replacements tonight. My platoon now had 34 men, Lt Koltes and me.
19 Jan 1951 - My diary doesn't say who last night's two replacements were.
Capt Snow asked me if I would accept a battlefield commission. I felt that he would not have asked me the question if the subject had not been agreed to by, and likely even initiated by, Col Bell. To bring up the topic with me without knowing what the reaction might be further up the chain of command would have been quite foolish on the captain's part. I answered that I would accept a commission.
Five more EM replacements came in to me.
20 Jan 1951 - Last night's five replacements were Law, Palmer, Stein, Nadolny and Lawson. Two more EM replacements came in. The name of this place was Changhowon-ni.
21 Jan 1951 - Kovall and Wheeler were the two men who came in last night. The wind is bitterly cold. First platoon gave a firing demonstration for the new men that have come in the last few days.
Our replacements were always brought up at night which I thought was rather unfortunate. In the dark I couldn't even see their faces. All I could do was tell them to find a spot in the snow that looked comfortable to them and lie down for the night. For strangers to walk around at night in the dark could be dangerous. As I myself would lie down for the night, I would hope that we would not get attacked because these new men would need more help from me than the rest of my men, and I didn't even know what these new guys looked like. The next morning I would learn their names and faces, and then I would assign them to squads.
24 Jan 1951 - I saw several Corsairs fly over. From some aircraft carrier, I assumed. Sgt MacWilliams came. He and Pvt Booker are the only Negro soldiers in Co C.
25 Jan 1951 - First Sgt Jack Covert was accidentally shot and evacuated. SFC Marion Stowers, mess sergeant, was appointed first sergeant. First cook Edward B. Hula became mess sergeant. New Lt Parker arrived. The 5th and 7th Cavalry Regiments and many tanks went by us going north. Corsairs were in the air. The Australians attacked.
26 Jan 1951 - More tanks and halftracks went by us going north. Corsairs were in the air.
During January 1951, the Battalion received 130 enlisted replacements and 7 officers.
27 Jan 1951 - Enough men were taken from John Dailey and from me to form a third platoon. I learned that I was promoted to Sergeant First Class (E6) yesterday.
28 Jan 1951 - I saw my friend Howard Deis from Battalion Forward today. I had a bacon and egg sandwich, pancakes and coffee.
29 Jan 1951 - I saw Lt Koltes today. Even though he was my platoon leader, I did not get to know him, and he didn't know me. He was always on FO (forward observer). I think I saw him only three times in all. Beautiful day. We greased the vehicles.
31 Jan 1951 - March Order was received at 0900 hours. Two of my four baseplates were frozen in the ground. It took 45 minutes to get them out. I saw Co B on the road. We got typhus and smallpox shots.
2 Feb 1951 - Weber got shot. The weather turned cold again.
3 Feb 1951 - I got a haircut.
4 Feb 1951 - We moved to Yogu about 14 miles north of Changhowon-ni. The 19th Infantry Regiment was taking heavy casualties. We slept in a house for the first time this winter.
5 Feb 1951 - I went on a water run with George. Having drinking water available while one is living out in the snow presents a problem. Water in one's canteen freezes solid in December and thaws out in March, or something like that.
Each company had a 400 gallon water trailer to supply the men's drinking needs and the kitchen's cooking needs. Unfortunately the company was in four different places: the two platoons each in its own area, the FDC somewhere behind them and the kitchen, maintenance and supply people somewhere farther behind. Wherever the trailer was, three parts of the company had no access to it. That mattered in above-freezing weather when I can remember taking water out of a steam locomotive once and once dipping water very carefully out of a rice paddy so as not to stir up the muck under the water. You do know how rice paddies are fertilized, don't you? Halozone tablets can make some pretty awful water safe to drink.
But in below-freezing weather, even the water trailer, or at least its faucets, freezes. There is a fair-sized hatch on the trailer's top through which it is filled. It's pretty awkward, but it is possible to reach in through the hatch with a hand axe in order to chop through the top ice to get at the water. In very cold weather, though, the ice is solid throughout the trailer's tank. So in winter the trailer stays with the cooks who bring it into the kitchen tent, thereby keeping it from freezing. Of course when the kitchen moves, the tent must be packed up, and the trailer is again subject to freezing.
When the cooks bring meals up on line, the men drink as much coffee as they can.
So where do you get water to put in the water trailer? The Army's Corps of Engineers is charged with the responsibility to supply drinking water to the troops. In the field they set up "water points" along rivers. A water point is a small water purification plant. I don't even pretend to know the steps involved in the process of drawing water out of a river, filtering it, chemically treating it and holding it ready for issue to anyone who drives up with a water trailer. I don't know how they can tell that the water that they dispense is safe to drink, but I have faith in them.
Anyway, this seemed like it would be an easy day, so when the mess sergeant sent word up asking for someone to get the water trailer filled, I said George and I would do it. Since water points often have to move, and therefore you never know where they're going to be, they put up a lot of roadside signs giving directions to a water point as soon as they select a place to set up. We found a water point with no difficulty. I did have some difficulty with my stomach, however. Walking around their big, collapsible, canvas tank that reminded me of someone's backyard swimming pool, I got to the riverside where a large hose was pulling water out of the river. In the shallow river were two dead horses and six dead Chinese soldiers. I asked the GI overseeing the operation if he couldn't have found a nicer place to set up. His response was something like, "Oh, you mean those. I was here first. Don't worry, I'll be out of here before they get ripe." Everybody has his own war, I guess.
6 Feb 1951 - Much artillery banged away to our left last night.
Sgt Roy J. Austen, artillery reservist and most recently a retail driver for the Jewel Tea Company through a rural area of Wisconsin, got assigned to Co C as a cook just a few days ago. He had never been a cook in his life, but he confided to me that he was not going to complain about his present assignment because it at least kept him off line.
But this day dawned clear and sunny. Spirits were up. I don't know how it happened, but the kitchen got in a supply of fresh eggs. The mess sergeant decided to bring his stoves up to our gun position and fry them for us. Wow, spirits were really up! I dug out my mess kit and got in the chow line. When I reached Austen's stove he grinned and said cheerily, "Hi! How do you want your eggs burnt?" I've laughed whenever I have thought of that little incident over the intervening years, and I've thought of it often.
But his satisfaction with his assignment was short lived. Someone found out either that he was an artilleryman or that he wasn't a cook, and he was assigned to my platoon.
8 Feb 1951 - I washed some clothes today.
9 Feb 1951 - It snowed last night and this morning. Col Bell told us that he's going home. This town's name is Yoju.
10 Feb 1951 - Artillery on left all last night. Still cold. My clothes were not dry yet.
11 Feb 1951 - Artillery last night. Nice day. We were low on ammunition. We had only 214 high explosive and 22 white phosphorus shells in the platoon. That could be fired off in a matter of minutes. My clothes finally dried. Zambuto bent a wheel on the same jeep Moran had wrecked before. Artillery at night.
12 Feb 1951 - More artillery today.
13 Feb 1951 - We crossed the Han River and set up on the edge of a village called Chinaeri. The 19th Infantry Regiment was being hard hit. We received the order to hold 72 hours.
I learned that I was promoted to Master Sergeant (E7) three days ago, on the 10th. I have been doing a master sergeant's job the past 2½ years, since 16 August 1948.
The same order that promoted me also let me know that our battalion executive officer, Major Merritt W. Briggs, was made commanding officer of the Battalion. Col Bell must have left. In three months or so, Maj Briggs would be promoted to lieutenant colonel.
14 Feb 1951 - Machine gun and small arms fire before dawn. The 19th Infantry Regiment's third battalion was being very hard hit. The wounded were being evacuated on tanks. That seemed to be a waste of their firepower, but I supposed that they were the only vehicles available. Much artillery firing. British planes were overhead. I saw Companies A and B on the road leapfrogging us going forward.
One of my men yelled over to me that the colonel wanted to see me. I asked where he was and was told that he was on the road. I looked in that direction but could not see him. Wondering what he wanted, and why he hadn't gone home, I walked toward the road, scanning the people there, trying to recognize the tall, lean man who was our colonel. When I reached the road, a short, stocky man wearing a yellow scarf met me. I immediately saw that he had a full colonel's eagle on the front of his helmet and realized that it was not "thuh" colonel but rather "uh" colonel who wanted to see me.
Saluting him, I reported, "Sergeant Hulsman, Native Charlie White, sir." Native was the code name of the 2d Chemical Mortar Battalion. Company letter designations are given in the Army's phonetic alphabet wherein C is Charlie. Generally there are three platoons to a company, first, second and third, but they are designated red, white and blue respectively. He introduced himself (I can't remember his name) as the commanding officer of Swing (the 5th Cavalry Regiment), saying that he had come up to let me know that "the Cav" was right behind us. He nodded over to my guns and said, "Damned fine weapons." I agreed with him, and, as he started to turn away, I gave him a farewell salute which he returned. (I've since recognized Col Marcel Crombez' picture in a book.)
15 Feb 1951 - We march ordered north and into position. We set up and stayed fifteen minutes. Then march ordered north again and set up. In my sleeping bag, I looked up at the moon before I closed my eyes and drifted off to sleep.
16 Feb 1951 - Snow in my face woke me up at 0430 hours, but I stayed in the sack till 0630 hours. Argylls were to jump off at noon. We were to prepare their hill objective with forty rounds per platoon. Argylls were slow progressing because the bad weather prohibited an air strike. Weather cleared in the afternoon, and we watched a beautiful air strike. The 6th ROK Division on our right was no longer in contact with us. Fired fifty-one rounds at dusk.
I took ten men and our machine gun forward at 2300 hours to plug a hole in our riflemen's line.
17 February 1951 - Maj Gen Charles D. Palmer, commanding general of the 1st Cavalry Division, landed in a helicopter near us. Co B fired 1,854 rounds in the last three days. I slept on a sandbar in a creek bed, more comfortable than the hard ground.
18 Feb 1951 - We march ordered north at 0810 hours to Co B. Co A passed by. Wintry weather got a little better in the afternoon. We moved up past our first platoon and passed by forty or fifty dead Americans lined up in a field. With their bodies lined up like that, they must have been captured first and then murdered. They were not wearing any pants or shoes. A big Negro was lying in the road with no shoes on. You could read the size 12 on his socks. They had been a patrol-in-force that got ambushed.
We arrived at "Bloody Dog's Tooth", Hill 295, and set the guns up in a peach orchard. I was sorry that we had to chop one tree down to make sure we would not have a premature detonation should one of our shells hit a branch. When the farmer returned from being a refugee, I supposed that he would wonder why someone would do such a senseless thing as to cut down an innocent peach tree. Several Chinese hand grenades were hanging as booby traps in the fence along one side of the orchard. We march ordered farther and set up. I did not go to sleep.
19 Feb 1951 - Nice day. I washed and shaved, then slept two hours in the afternoon.
At about 2300 hours, Capt Snow came through my platoon's position. He had never done this before at night. He seldom visited us even in the daylight. With its being winter, he was pretty well bundled up. There must have been some moonlight, because I could see rather well. As soon as I saw him, I noticed that, though he was wearing heavy gloves, he had a fully cocked 45 caliber pistol in his hand. I mention this because having the hammer at half-cock is a safety feature of that pistol. Having the hammer at full-cock takes off that safety. I immediately thought what a dangerous thing he was doing. Dangerous to himself or to anyone in the area. It's night time. The ground is uneven and snow covered. If he were to slip, or turn his ankle, or stumble, the natural reaction would be to contract various muscles in his body, one of which might be his trigger finger.
I approached him and could smell the alcohol on his breath. He complained to me that my machine gun crew had not challenged him when he came up to them. I explained to him that they knew him by sight, so why would they ask who he was; besides, my standing orders to night machine gunners were that they should do no talking while at their post so as not to draw attention to their position.
He had difficulty keeping on his feet and his speech was slurred. Telling me he wanted one man from each squad awake in addition to the two men on the machine gun, he wandered off. Relieved that no accident had occurred while his pistol was pointed at my stomach, I went around to wake up each squad leader to relay the captain's order.
Good Night! Were the rumors true? Had people really seen him walking around with his bayonet fixed to his carbine? Was he really scared to death? Had yesterday's sight of the murdered men taken him over the edge?
20 Feb 1951 - As I was awakening my platoon this morning, I heard Capt Snow shout at somebody to "shut up." Turning to go in the direction of his voice, I saw him facing Pvt Elliott, a replacement who had arrived the night of January 17, who was lying on the ground still in his sleeping bag. Then I heard Elliott shout, "Don't tell me to shut up! I'm a soldier! Tell me 'At Ease'!" By this time I was near them both, and the captain, seeing me, shouted, "You are relieved from your platoon, and I'm sending you to Battalion Rear and sending papers for you to be reduced to private!"
Good Night! A month ago he asked me if I would accept a commission. Now he wanted to bust me! What in the world was the charge? What had I done? Or not done? I thought he must still be drunk. I found Sgt. Jefferson, my base squad leader, and without giving him any details, told him I was leaving him in charge of the platoon. Then I went to the 2½-ton truck that carried all our duffel bags and found John Dailey, with a perturbed expression on his face, on the truck looking for his bag. Seems the captain had visited the first platoon before he came to mine. I couldn't find my bag though John found his.
Lt King drove us back to Company Rear where Gene McArdle, the company's motor sergeant, said I could sleep in his truck with him. I think John bunked in with Sgt. Lawrence R. McGurl, the supply sergeant.
Gen Mark Clark, map board in hand, got out of a helicopter that landed in a paddy next to us to ask where he was.
21 Feb 1951 - My 22nd birthday. I cleaned up and sat around. It rained all afternoon and night.
24 Feb 1951 - Maj Gen Moore, commanding IX Corps, was killed when his helicopter fell into the Han River.
25 Feb 1951 - I saw ten women, three of whom had infants in their sashes, and one man lying dead in a dry creek bed. All the women had been repeatedly bayoneted between their legs. I could see no wounds on the babies. Maybe the poor little things had frozen to death.
27 Feb 1951 - George Lesser brought my duffel bag back to me.
Seven officers, headed by Capt Ivan J. Cooper, were appointed "members of a reduction board for the purpose of determining the fitness of non-commissioned officers as may be properly brought before it." Besides Capt Cooper, I knew three of those officers quite well, and they knew me. They were Capt Samuel H. Smith and 1st Lts William E. King and Lear A. Koch. The other three, Captains Cleo M. Willoughby and Bruno J. Jankowicz and 1st Lt. Arture Santiago-Hernendez were officers whom I had never met, so I assumed they were recently arrived replacements. 1 Mar 1951 - Someone told me that I was to appear before the reduction board on March 5 after supper.
We'd received no written charges, but rumor had it that John and I had each "endangered the lives of the men in your charge through direct disobedience of orders." What orders? How many years on the rock pile at Leavenworth is that worth?
I thought that it might have been more appropriate if Captain Snow had been charged with "endangering the lives of the men in his charge by his being in an intoxicated condition in a gun position on the front line."
Isn't it strange that two master sergeants, having reached the highest ranking enlisted positions on our Company's line after several years of exemplary service, should be charged with the same unlikely offense at the same time?
With John Dailey concurring, we drove up to Company B where we saw Capt Richard B. Elliott who agreed to represent us before the board.
4 Mar 1951 - First Sgt Stowers told us the hearing is postponed four or five days. The situation on line did not permit the officers to leave their posts.
6 Mar 1951 - PFC Buster J. Downing drove me back to Battalion Rear, on the south bank of the Han River. John rode back with Lt King. When I got there I happened to run into Captain Smith who, very surprised, said, "Carl! What the hell are you doing back here?", as if the only reason a platoon sergeant should be back at the rear was that his platoon had been wiped out. Remembering that he was appointed to the reduction board, I said, "Don't you know?" He looked at me a moment and said, "Oh. That.", at the same time giving a single flapping motion of dismissal with his hand.
7 Mar 1951 - I went to the Ammunition Supply Point with Sgt Maj Houston C. Smith. They were out of 4.2 inch ammunition.
9 Mar 1951 - The sergeant major said that the board will meet next week. I got to the ASP at 2310 hours and picked up 372 rounds, returned 0350 hours. Can't we even pick up ammunition in the daylight?
13 Mar 1951 - I picked two lice off the back of my head and then dosed myself well with a DDT spray can. I slept with my trousers off, first time since Pusan in December.
15 Mar 1951 - Seoul was retaken by the 1st ROK and 3rd Infantry Divisions.
Lt Col Howard P. McCormick, Chemical Officer of EUSAK, had written a letter, dated 30 January, 1951, to the Chemical Officers of the three corps (how does one spell the plural of corps?) in Korea (the I, the IX and the X) directing that monthly activity reports be prepared and submitted.
Lt Col Thomas H. Magness Jr, Chemical Officer of IX Corps endorsed that letter on 24 Feb 1951 down to the CO of our battalion saying that our first report should cover "the period from your departure from the United States to 31 January 1951. Subsequent reports for each month should be forwarded through the Corps Chemical Officer of the Corps to which you are attached."
1st Lt Lear A. Koch, adjutant of our battalion endorsed the letter on 1 Mar 1951 to Major Benjamin C. Bell, our battalion S-3, adding, "Request that you prepare as quickly as possible a history of this unit's activities from the period 8 Oct 1950 to 12 Feb 1951 as requested by the Eighth Army Chemical Officer." I don't know why he chose 8 Oct, the date our ship arrived at Pusan, rather than 22 September, the date it left the States.
Somehow the letter and its endorsements got from Major Bell to Sergeant Major Smith who handed it to me with the instruction that I start writing. Actually it wasn't quite that bad. He knew that I was somewhat knowledgeable on the subject and had the ability to put words down on a sheet of paper, so he asked me if I would take a stab at it. We agreed that I would assemble a map and refer to it in my writing.
16 Mar 1951 - I went to Battalion Forward at Chipyongni to get some rubber cement from Howard Deis. Returned.
17 Mar 1951 - Uijongbu was retaken. I put ten 1:250,000 map sheets together and traced the routes of the Battalion for the sergeant major. We went to a shower point, but it wasn't working.
18 Mar 1951 - Palm Sunday. I went to "Temple City" with Austen and Gordon. This place was three pagoda-type buildings, each facing a square with one side open. No houses or other buildings were there. No people were there. I felt very uncomfortable being there with only two other guys. Taking off our helmets, but keeping our weapons, we entered one of the buildings. On a wide stage of little depth was a line of larger-than-life wooden statues, rather primitively made and painted very bright colors, red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, black and white. Heads were outsized and bore facial expressions which seemed to try to outdo each other in grotesqueness and hideousness. It was weird and we went outside and left the area at a fast walk.
24 Mar 1951 - We moved to Tadaeri, ten miles north of Chipyongni.
25 Mar 1951 - Easter Sunday. I went to Tempest airstrip for Haley and got back at 0020 hours.
26 Mar 1951 - I left for Suwon at 0930 hours where I picked up some replacements and our own men returning from hospital at 8069th MASH. Returned at 2030 hours.
27 Mar 1951 - We moved 46 miles west to Chongpyongni.
28 Mar 1951 - I took five trucks to Tempest ASP and picked up all the 4.2 ammunition they had.
29 Mar 1951 - I worked on the historical map.
31 Mar 1951 - I worked on the Battalion history. We played volleyball against the 8063rd MASH, the one referred to in the television series. There is no notation in my diary as to the score.
2 Apr 1951 - I finished the historical map. Capt Cooper told me to go to Battalion Forward tomorrow to "straighten out" the Command Post guard. How can the officer, who will be president of the reduction board which will determine my fitness, trust me now to improve our colonel's personal security?
3 Apr 1951 - I came up to Battalion Forward and gave instruction to the guards providing security for the Command Post. Capt Donald Bluejacket, battalion communications officer, told me the board will meet tomorrow at Company B.
4 Apr 1951 - At the board meeting, I told my story of the night of February 19 and the morning of February 20. I answered what questions Captain Elliott and the board members had of me. Neither Captain Snow nor John Dailey was present while I spoke. I was not present while either Captain Snow or John Dailey spoke. I don't know whether anyone else spoke nor do I know what Captain Elliott said in our behalf or what the board members said among themselves. It was very cold while I was in the hearing tent.
I returned to Battalion Forward. I couldn't help thinking that the officers would "protect their own". Rather than embarrass Captain Snow, they would sacrifice John and me. That night I bedded down with Howard Deis. I was cold then too.
5 Apr 1951 - We moved farther north to a school yard north of Kapyong. The sergeant major came up at 1800 hours and said that I'm "safe" but did not elaborate.
6 Apr 1951 - The 6th ROK Division is up to the Kansas line north of the 38th Parallel.
7 Apr 1951 - We played baseball against a team from the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry Regiment. They had thought to bring their equipment from home, which was Calgary. They won 17 to 15.
9 Apr 1951 - It rained last night. The Princess Pat's ammunition dump across the river burned. Eighteen men got on a jeep, many of them standing, which then proceeded to cross the river to us. We cheered and applauded when they pulled up onto the bank.
11 & 12 Apr 1951 - Much artillery going both ways.
14 Apr 1951 - I shaved off my mustache.
16 Apr 1951 - Seventeen EM replacements came up to Battalion Forward to go to the gun companies.
17 Apr 1951 - The 27th British Brigade moved back. 39 EM replacements came up to go to the gun companies.
19 Apr 1951 - It rained last night and almost all morning. A soldier in the field is at the mercy of the elements. During the winter we suffered terribly from the cold. Some nights I couldn't sleep for the cold induced pain. I would just endure until morning when, even if it didn't get any warmer, there would be the psychological benefit of seeing the sun come up.
In January of 1994, we had a few days of extremely cold weather, when it got down to more than twenty degrees below zero. I couldn't stay outside very long. At night, standing in the living room of my comfortably warm house in Rocky River, Ohio, I looked out at the wind-driven snow and marveled that, as a young man, I spent a whole winter 24 hours a day outside in weather often like that.
Now we have cold spring rains. We get drenched clear through, and there is no way to get dried out except just to wait. The wind chills us to the bone.
22 Apr 1951 - We moved through Chunchon. Battalion Forward was near Co B. I went over and talked with Dale Cummins and Vince Pukas, platoon sergeants of the first and second platoons respectively. I knew them rather well when I was B Co's third platoon sergeant back at Edgewood.
I was told to go back to Co C tomorrow. What sort of reception would Captain Snow give me?
What all had gone on during the hearing? Why was I not given some definite explanation of the board's findings? How is it possible that a drunken officer can bring such serious charges against a career soldier, a master sergeant willing to carry a rather substantial responsibility in a combat situation? Can I ever fully trust an officer again? We need our officers, but they can't fight a war alone. They need their non-coms; in fact, they need every soldier they have. There has to be a mutual respect, faith and trust. Can I ever feel secure in my position again? Is this really the career for me? To be fair, the Army has to have a procedure to look into complaints of improper conduct on anyone's part, including master sergeants. But having known me as long and as well as he did, couldn't Captain Snow have talked with me in an attempt at understanding before making a Battalion issue out of it?
My accepting a battlefield commission was never brought up again.
At approximately 2200 hours word was received that Co C, somewhere around Hwach'on, was being overrun by the Chinese. I should have been with my platoon. A platoon sergeant needs to take care of his men. I can't even begin to describe my anxiety. What was happening to my men?
23 Apr 1951 - Company C's count in the morning was that eighteen men were missing, seven mortars and many vehicles were lost. We moved back to Kapyong. During the day a truck stopped out on the road, and George Lesser jumped down and waved his thanks to the driver as the truck pulled away. He had been one of the missing, and I was very glad to see him. By 2100 hours when we march ordered again, only three men were still missing. In the evening Co's A and B went up on line with the Middlesex, Aussies and Canadians.
24 Apr 1951 - In the early morning we moved down to a ford in the river. Co A had lost three mortars. Co B had walked out, but the Aussies brought their vehicles out for them. It had been a hot sunny day.
25 Apr 1951 - We moved across the river. I helped supply sergeant McGurl issue supplies to the men. We received three mortars from Battalion Rear. Beautiful day. After lunch, the company, with only eight mortars, went back on line. Company Rear moved north to Kapyong to near the place where I was boarded. The other two company rears and Battalion Forward were there. Self-propelled 105mm howitzers blasted away all night.
26 Apr 1951 - I washed and shaved in the river. A hot day. I went up to the gun position with McGurl. We march ordered in the afternoon south to about ten kilometers north of the junction of the Han and the Pukhan Rivers on the east bank.
27 Apr 1951 - We were now with the Kings Own Scottish Borderers of the 28th British Brigade (Newcastle). It rained all day. The 5th Infantry Regiment and tanks of the 6th and 72nd Tank Battalions were going south.
28 Apr 1951 - Captain Snow hadn't been around Company Rear much since the 23rd, but today he recognized my presence by speaking to me, and it was as if nothing had happened. Did he feel embarrassed that the board had not found for him? He told me to go out on reconnaissance with the Middlesex officers. Somewhere along the way one of the Englishmen asked me, "How many chaps are you?" My mind raced, "What in the world does he mean? How many chaps am I?" Seeing the puzzled look on my face, he said, "How many men do you have?" I thought, "Of course, he wants to know how many people we are so he'll have an idea as to how much real estate I'll need." Since his is a rifle battalion with few vehicles, he won't make any estimate of space needed for vehicles. So I answered, "About a hundred men and thirty vehicles." Then he said, "Oh, that's right. You're loaded with transport, aren't you?" We found an area three or so miles east of Yangpyong on the Han River.
29 Apr 1951 - Nice weather. While I was sitting with my butt in the dual wheel of a 2½-ton truck, Captain Snow walked by, and, without even slowing his pace, told me that I was the next first sergeant of Charlie Company. No further explanation. I don't know what happened to Marion Stowers that we should then need a new first sergeant. I looked up the company clerk and said, "I guess I'm the new first sergeant." Rolling his eyes as if in disbelief of the odd goings on of late, he smiled and said, "I guess you are."
Can you believe this? Snow had tried to get me busted to private, and now he was appointing me to the highest enlisted position in the company.
Major Briggs came up and took a lot of pictures. I wondered if he was going home and wanted some remembrances, but he didn't say anything about it.
30 Apr 1951 - We had a company formation and were given the scoop on how men would get selected to go home on rotation. We moved to the west bank of the Pukhan a couple miles north of the Han. We're in support of the 187th Airborne RCT.
I don't remember when it started, but there came into being a procedure called Rest and Recuperation, or "R and R" for short. It was a practice wherein both officers and enlisted men, a few at a time, were taken back to Japan for a week or so. I can't remember the length of their stay. The purpose was to allow a man to get some good food, get cleaned up, get undisturbed sleep, maybe even telephone home and in general get away from the war for a while. I have no idea who decided who should go or what criteria were used in making such a choice. I do know, however, that in Co C it was decided that the company commander, the first sergeant and the platoon sergeants could not be spared and so would never go. So I never went on R and R.
Another thing I ought to mention is how malaria was controlled. Korea, with much of its surface, the rice paddies, covered by water part of the year, was a good breeding ground for mosquitos and therefore malaria. The practice was that, at Wednesday lunch, every UN soldier would be given a chloroquine tablet. It didn't matter if you were away from your own unit. Every chow line at that time was to make the tablets available. If the situation was such that you didn't get lunch that day, you were to get it at supper. If you were eating only C's or K's that day, then it was your responsibility to get a tablet as soon as possible.
I experienced no symptoms of malaria until after I got back to the States and was no longer taking chloroquine.
Another health concern, of which we were made aware before leaving the States, was snail fever, which occurs generally in third world countries where irrigation is used and snails proliferate. I don't really understand the nature of the disease, and I never heard any more about it after we got to Korea. I do, however, remember, soon after our arrival, seeing a great number of snails in a little stream, and I was quite repelled by them. Afterwards they became rather commonplace, and I got used to seeing them in almost any shallow water. Many years later I read an article in Reader's Digest which told of a Western scientist who, during the thirties, had gone to China to study snail fever. The Japanese interned him several years during which, of course, his work was interrupted. I suppose it was poetic justice that the Japanese army in China suffered many fatalities from snail fever.
1 May 1951 - We were back with the Princess Pat's.
3 May 1951 - Tony Rosa's ammunition truck caught fire while loaded with 300 rounds of ammo. That's over five tons on a 2½-ton truck. What a hazard!
4 May 1951 - Quite a rain storm.
6 May 1951 - I washed some clothes.
7 May 1951 - With the coming of nicer weather, I started sleeping on the ground again. When I was a platoon sergeant, I almost always slept on the ground. When Capt Snow sent me to the rear, I got to sleep in a truck. Harder, but at least it's not mud.
9 May 1951 - In response to his request, I took a roster of men who had gone to the hospital up to Capt Snow and found our officers and some New Zealand officers quite drunk.
11 May 1951 - I went swimming in the Pukhan with Gene McArdle.
12 May 1951 - A Canadian soldier got killed by a mine at the river where he and others had been swimming. No more swimming in the river. The 155mm self-propelled guns of the 937th Artillery Battalion were on the south bank of the Han River.
13 May 1951 - We moved Company Rear south across the Han and set up by Co B Rear. Co A Rear and Battalion Forward are here too.
16 May 1951 - I went with McArdle to 3rd Quartermaster to visit his cousin, Dick Trader.
17 May 1951 - The 25th Canadian Brigade was up here now with a lot of 25 pounders. The 5th RCT was being attacked. Co's A and B were firing, as were the 25 pounders and the 155's of the 937th. Co C was still with the Princess Pats. I took my CP tent up to the gun position yesterday, so now McArdle's motor maintenance truck had the additional duty of being my orderly room.
18 May 1951 - Rained. The Canadian 25 pounders were firing.
20 May 1951 - We moved up four miles. Twenty-four new replacements came in.
21 May 1951 - There were mines in the road. Corporal Ball ran over one in C-5. He was evacuated by the 60th Indian Ambulance. In the evening I went back to the 60th to see how Ball was, but he was already on his way to Japan. The Indian with whom I spoke had a pointed beard and wore a pink turban. His eyes were open rather wide and piercing, and I wondered if he didn't use anesthetic, but rather said, "You are going to sleep, sleeep, sleeeep...."
We moved up to the railroad station on the SeoulChunchon road. 25 pounders were on the other side of the road.
22 May 1951 - Talarski was hit in the toe by a chunk of steel from an artillery shell that burst high above us. A matter of inches and that piece would have come down through his head, helmet or not. There were very many artillery shells going in both directions over us. We wondered if one with a proximity fuse got too close to another and that was what caused the explosion over our heads. Or two shells collided, or one's time fuse was set too short, or there was a manufacturing fault, or who knows?
I learned that my friend Howard Deis with the S-3 section of Battalion Forward had made master sergeant. When Howard had served in Germany with the 1st Infantry Division, he was the color sergeant for the 5th Field Artillery Battalion. D Battery of the 5th Field was the oldest continually existing unit in the Army, tracing its history back to Alexander Hamilton's battery of New York Artillery during the Revolution. In 1784 the whole Army had shrunk to only fifty-eight artillerymen commanded by Captain John Doughty stationed at Carlisle, Pennsylvania. I don't know what its designation was at that time, but it subsequently became known as D Battery of the 5th U.S. Field Artillery Battalion. There is a monument to D Battery on Little Round Top at Gettysburg. It fought in all the country's wars, picking up a great many battle streamers which made Howard's job of carrying the battalion's colors on a windy parade ground rather difficult.
Howard died of a heart attack not long after he was rotated out of Korea. He had married a German war bride, and I wondered if she would be able to cope by herself in the States or whether she would choose to go back to her family in Germany.
24 May 1951 - We moved Company Rear up to a couple miles south of our guns. We were now in the 25th Infantry Division area. The Turks were there. Battalion Forward was still on the south bank of the Han by a pontoon bridge.
25 & 26 May 1951 - Rained and rained.
I didn't make a record of this incident so I don't know when it happened. Peonies bloom in late May at home so I'm including it here. About four of us entered a tiny village one day. We believed it to be completely abandoned but were picking our way rather cautiously. I was surprised to come upon a peony bush perhaps eight feet in diameter and three feet high. It appeared to be quite healthy, doing quite well, but it had only one gigantic white blossom in the center of it. I assumed that its owner had pinched off all other buds in order to maximize the one blossom, but I don't think that really works with peonies. I think that what appeared to be a single great bush was in reality many separate plants growing close together.
Anyway, I wanted to smell its delightful fragrance, but the blossom was too far into the bush for me to get near enough to put my nose to it. I didn't want to break any of the bush. Unloading my rifle, I handed it to one of my friends. While he held the stock, I grabbed the muzzle with the front sight preventing my right hand from slipping off. As he leaned back, I put my right foot on his thigh thereby allowing my body to go out from him in almost a horizontal position high enough to nearly clear the bush. In this manner I was able to pull the blossom with my left hand to my nose without damaging the bush. It was worth the effort. The only other flowers that I remember seeing in Korea were some zinnias and cosmos last October.
27 May 1951 - One of our mechanics, Leland D. Fawcett, brought to me a traffic ticket he had received from a 2nd lieutenant in the 6th Tank Battalion for driving forty miles per hour. I had never heard of a traffic ticket in Korea before. I put it in my pocket and decided that if the lieutenant ever followed up on it asking what punishment was given Fawcett, I'd say that the matter was still in process, that our CO was extremely busy. I would then decide whether I'd take it out of my pocket or not. I heard nothing more about it.
Many prisoners were being taken. The 24th Infantry Division got 1,600 in one day.
28 May 1951 - I got the order from Capt Bluejacket to move to the 7th Infantry Division sector.
29 May 1951 - The company moved out at 0800 hours, and the Rear followed after cooking dinner. Capt Snow met the company at the new area 3.8 miles south of Kapyong. We were now with 52nd Field Artillery Battalion of the 24th Infantry Division. We got the word to move again tomorrow.
30 May 1951 - We moved to north of Chunchon by a bridge a couple hundred yards south of the 38th Parallel. It rained all day, and we really got soaked.
31 May 1951 - We moved north of the 38th. Battalion Forward and all three company rears were there. It was very muddy.
4 Jun 1951 - Rain. We were now with the 7th Infantry Division. We got in seventeen EM replacements.
5 June 1951 - George Lesser, my driver and instrument corporal when I had the second platoon, was promoted to corporal yesterday.
7 Jun 1951 - I went back to see the Camel Caravan show. A very hot day.
9 Jun 1951 - We entered Hwach'on, the town we had been kicked out of on April 22nd. A sign says, "Welcome Back to HWACHON, A Peace Lovin' Town. We Aim to Keep It Thataway - The Buffaloes". Buffalo was the code name for the 17th Infantry Regiment of the 7th Infantry Division. On the bottom third of the 17th's regimental crest, a buffalo is depicted.
10 Jun 1951 - We moved to the top of the Hwach'on sheet. I never saw so much artillery in one place. The 17th, 213th, 987th, 31st, 48th, 49th, 57th, 2nd, 92nd and 937th Field Artillery Battalions are all set up in the valley. The 17th Field Artillery Battalion (Natalie) is the only outfit in Korea armed with 8 inch howitzers, the largest artillery pieces we have here. When they move, each piece is dismantled into two sections, each of which is pulled by a full-track prime mover (a caterpillar tractor). Needless to say, whenever they are on the road, everyone else must get off. The roads suffer under their weight. Tanks are hard on the roads too.
12 Jun 1951 - The 13th Field Artillery Battalion has arrived. Included in their bumper markings is "Q-CLAN". I have no idea what that means.
14 Jun 1951 - Our company commander, Capt Aethra C. Snow, is going home. Capt James N. Elliott will replace him.
20 Jun 1951 - We've been on the Wyoming Line since about the 12th. We exchanged our old scrip for new.
22 Jun 1951 - The 7th Division was replaced by the 24th. That means the 21st Infantry Regiment took over the line from our Buffaloes.
24 Jun 1951 - The men from the 24th shower point were eating with us. I got a shower and clean clothes.
27 Jun 1951 - I'M ON THE QUOTA! Please don't let me get shot.
28 Jun 1951 - I went around to say good-bye to the men. Chances are I'll never see any of them again. I'm to leave tomorrow.
29 Jun 1951 - We got shelled on our way back to Battalion Rear.
3 Jul 1951 - We got shelled on our way to the 369th Repl. Co. at Inchon.
4 Jul 1951 - I received the Korean Service Ribbon with four bronze stars. Wow! Battle stars! I don't know what they are for exactly, but I'll take them. Years later I learned that they are not "battle" stars as I had thought ever since I had first seen them during World War II, but rather, they are "campaign" stars. One does not need to be a combatant on the front line to get them. Everyone in Korea, even clerk typists down in Pusan, got them. So they are rather meaningless.
For the record, the four campaigns that were going on while I was in Korea were:
The United Nations Offensive The Chinese Communist Forces Intervention The First United Nations Counteroffensive The Chinese Communist Forces Spring Offensive
8 Jul 1951 - Inchon, South Korea, is not a deep water harbor. That was one of the problems for the Inchon Invasion back in September of 1950. Accordingly, at 0730 hours (we had gotten up at 0300 hours) the LST Q014 carried us out several hundred yards to the troopship Gen. William Weigel which left at 1300 hours and took us to Japan. Smooth water.
9 Jul 1951 - It rained quite a bit. Late in the day our ship entered the harbor at Sasebo, Japan. Even though the war with Japan had ended six years before, and I knew there were thousands of American soldiers in Japan, this was my first sight of our former enemy country, and it was scary for me to be there.
The Ark Royal, a British aircraft carrier, was anchored in the harbor. I had never seen a carrier before. The first Ark Royal had been the flagship of the English navy that had gone out to meet the Spanish Armada in 1588. We stayed on the ship overnight.
10 Jul 1951 - After disembarking, we were taken by truck to Camp Mower. We went through processing till 2200 hours. During the week we were in Camp Mower, we were given physical examinations, and I learned that, though I had arrived in Korea 6'1" tall and weighing 185 pounds, I was now only 140. I attributed the loss to not enough food, not enough sleep, and too much tension.
Passes to go into town were offered, but few men accepted them. Perhaps they felt as I did. Going in among foreign civilians might lead to trouble, and I wanted nothing to delay my going home. The only exciting thing I did was to buy a hand of bananas at the PX, where just outside the building there was a trash barrel. There I stood and ate every one of my bananas, dropping the skins into the barrel.
16 Jul 1951 - By 1830 hours I was aboard the troopship Sgt Howard E. Woodford.
17 Jul 1951 - The ship left the dock at 0800 hours.
30 Jul 1951 - We came in under the Golden Gate Bridge, landed at Fort Mason in San Francisco, and were taken by train to Camp Stoneman, California. Unknown to us, the Army had been processing us while we were steaming across the Pacific.
31 Jul 1951 - I was on a train headed for Cleveland with orders in hand directing me to report to the 5th Infantry Division at Indiantown Gap, Pennsylvania. I was given five days of travel time and thirty days delay en route. I was going home to visit my parents.
4 Sep 1951 - I reported in at Indiantown Gap. After about a week in Indiantown Gap, I received orders transferring me to the 101st Airborne Infantry Division at Camp Breckinridge, Kentucky. I reported in on September 14 and was pleased to learn that the division was not parachuting but was giving basic training to new recruits. I got orders assigning me to R Co of the 516th AIR. There aren't any R Co's in the Army. M Co. is as far as they go in the alphabet. Could this mean Reconnaissance Company? Good Night! That's all I need! To be assigned to a recon outfit of an Airborne regiment. I soon learned that the 516th had a fourth battalion made up of Q, R, S and T Co's.
18 Sep 1951 - When I entered the orderly room of R Co of the 516th Airborne Infantry Regiment, the first sergeant looked up at me, saw my stripes and smiled. He asked me if I had ever been a first sergeant, and when I answered affirmatively, his smile grew wider. He said words like, "Good! You're the next first sergeant of this company. I'm out of here." When I asked him how he could be so sure, he answered that he had already been accepted for Officers' Candidate School and would leave as soon as his replacement arrived. I said words like, "You're already a master sergeant. Why would you want to become an officer?" He responded that this division was so chicken that he would do anything to get off this post.
In a day or so I became R Co's first sergeant. 1st Lt David A. Rhodes, Infantry, was the company commander. He didn't seem to like his assignment very much, and it showed up in the way he handled the troops. It wasn't their fault he was here. Why should they be poorly treated, shortchanged in general?
I suppose it was as an attempt at morale building that cadences were sung in the 101st Airborne Infantry Division. I first became aware of singing cadences in some war movie wherein the paratroopers sang them. With most of the troops on post being in basic training and just learning to march in step, and with there being a lot of marching in basic training, cadence was called out by the drill sergeants. Instead of its being "HUT, two, three, four.", as was used back when I took my training at Aberdeen, it was sung responsively using a myriad verses, only two of which am I permitted to include in this writing.
Sgt: I don't know but I believe Men: I don't know but I believe Sgt: I'll be home by Christmas Eve Men: I'll be home by Christmas Eve Sgt: Sound off! Men: One, two Sgt: Sound off! Men: Three, four Sgt: Cadence count! Men: One, two, three, four, one, two ....THREE, FOUR!
The other verse that I can admit to was, "I don't know but I've been told... All that glitters is not gold."
There was a continuous call for men, both trainees and cadre, to volunteer for jump school, which would mean transferring to the 82nd Airborne Infantry Division at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. I considered it, but I guess I was just too lazy to undergo the fantastic physical training that I had seen on that post when I had attended the Air Transportability School there.
Sgt Theodore K. Duck, my company clerk, a position that called for the grade of corporal, was rather knowledgeable about company administration and a good soldier. When I was transferred to Q Co., Duck was made first sergeant of R Co.
I don't know the circumstances, but our sister company, Q Co., lost its first sergeant and some other cadremen at the end of its training cycle. It was decided to use that company for a special purpose.
18 November 1951 - I was transferred to and appointed first sergeant of Q Co., 516th Airborne Infantry Regiment. This company was to be a Basic Education Company. The recruits it received were illiterate. They went to primary school in the mornings to learn to read and write, and took basic military training in the afternoons. Since they could not read, no information was passed on to them by the bulletin board, a most common way of disseminating information in the Army.
General information was given out by voice while the troops were standing in formation. Individual information was given by calling the man into the orderly room and telling him or sending someone out to find him and telling him. The vast majority of the men were blacks from southern states. Sometimes I couldn't understand what a man said. Most of the men were good hearted and wanted to do right. I don't remember any discipline problems. At their dictation, I wrote letters home for a few of them. Their mothers would find someone, a younger child, a pastor, a teacher, a store worker or someone else to read the letter aloud to them.
M/Sgt John Dailey, late of the first platoon, Co C, 2d Chemical Mortar Battalion, and fellow almost-victim of Capt Snow, was assigned to Q Co. and was made field first sergeant. SFC Hobart Carr, mess sergeant of Co B of the 2d when we were at Edgewood, came in as mess sergeant.
Sometimes one can look back at the silly little things that one has done and shake one's head and chuckle. One morning Hobart and I were standing on the steps of our mess hall looking out at the battalion in formation for reveille. The battalion OD was to come and "take the report" before the men could be dismissed so they could come in to breakfast. John Daily was out at the head of our company as were the other field first sergeants at the head of their companies. Minutes ticked by and still no OD. He was wasting about eight hundred men's time because all these men were going to have to be in formation ready to start their day's training at 0800 hours regardless of how little time they had had to eat breakfast and put their barracks in order for the day.
Hobart turned to me and said, "Carl, you're chicken if you don't go out there and take the report." Without hesitation I walked smartly out to in front of the battalion, called it to attention, ordered the report, took it, and gave the companies back to their field first sergeants who dismissed their men. I went down to my orderly room, phoned the report in to battalion headquarters, and came back for breakfast. I never heard a word about it, except for Dailey's, "You're a good looking OD out there."
Our company commander was 1st Lt Harold P. Tomkins, Infantry, who had served in a mortar company in the 24th Infantry Division in Korea. In civil life he had been a lawyer and mayor of his small hometown in West Virginia. He didn't seem to be "on the job" as much as I felt he ought to be, that is, he was often away from his desk or not with the troops. There are many reports and other papers that a company commander must sign, and I was having a problem with his absences. He lived on post in the nearby Bachelor Officers' Quarters. One morning I went over there to get him to sign something and found him in his bed drunk. Well, that explained his absences.
My battalion sergeant major had been on my back a couple of times for being tardy with my Strength Accountability Report, the new name for the daily Morning Report, the most basic of company reports. I went over to see the sergeant major and explained my predicament. I'm sure my information was not news to him, and he said something like, "I'm not interested in your problems. Your SAR is due on my desk by 1000 hours and that's when I want to see it there." Good Night! Why aren't drunkards in the Army dealt with properly?
I practiced writing Tomkins' name in the same style as his signature. Then, whenever I needed his signature and he wasn't around, I put it on the report or other paper. He never questioned me about how I was able to get my various paperwork done without his signing much. Was he in that much of a fog, or was what I was doing known to him? Or was it even commonplace in the whole Army? My problem then was that each time I wrote his name, I wondered if he were lying dead in his bed the last several hours. How would I explain his signature on my SAR if it were determined that he had died before midnight last night? The SAR is a muster roll. The Articles of War deal specifically with a "false muster".
That first sergeant who went off to Officers' Candidate School was right. Discipline was carried to a ridiculous extreme in the 101st Airborne Infantry Division.
In inspecting commodes in the latrine, the colonel of our regiment took off his hat and stuck his head down in the bowl to see if there were any stains up under its rim. Couldn't he have used a small hand mirror? Maybe that's not discipline, maybe he was just nuts.
I suppose this is a better example. In the Army there is never a time when everyone is off duty. And even those who are off duty are subject to recall to duty. Generally in garrison, normal duty hours on weekdays are from 0600 hours to 1700hours and on Saturdays from 0600 hours to 1200 hours. This may vary from unit to unit or post to post. Certain men have other duty hours. Sentries on guard, for instance. Cooks and KP's must be at work well before and well after those hours.
But for the most part, when the saluting gun fires and the flag is brought down at 1700 hours, soldiers go off duty. This even includes a company's first sergeant. He leaves the orderly room, which is his office, but not before the arrival of a non-com of the company who has been detailed as the Charge of Quarters. All the non-coms of a company, with the exception of cooks and a very few of the most senior, take turns in being assigned this duty. As the title of his position implies, he is in charge of the company during off duty hours. If a situation comes up that he cannot handle, he is to call upon his Officer of the Day.
If the company is a separate company, one of its commissioned officers will have a somewhat similar duty known as Officer of the Day. Since Q Co. was part of a battalion, there was no company OD, but rather a battalion OD for Q, R, S and T Co's. There were also regimental and division OD's, but I suspect that they did very little, relying wholly on the various battalion OD's to cope with whatever situation that might arise. And I must stress that most nights passed without incident.
The CQ is to remain in the orderly room, so he is near the telephone, until he is relieved by his first sergeant the next morning. The CQ should leave the orderly room a few times during his tour to make quick inspections of the company's area to assure himself that all appears well. He may sleep in the orderly room during the late night hours, but must arise in time to awaken the troops early the next morning. To do this awakening, the CQ leaves the orderly room, walks through the barracks buildings, turns on their interior lights, and in a loud voice urges the troops to get up for another day.
The week-end CQ has similar responsibilities except that he begins his tour at noon Saturday, doesn't awaken the troops on Sunday, and ends his tour Monday morning when the first sergeant returns to his office.
You need one other bit of background knowledge. When the CQ goes through the barracks to awaken the troops, he is to turn off all fire lights. A fire light is an exterior light over each entrance to a barracks building. These lights would have been turned on at dark the previous evening by men living in the barracks. I don't know why those same men weren't responsible to turn them off in the morning as well.
One morning our battalion OD called me on the phone to ask the identity of my CQ the previous night. What kind of an OD was this? He should have learned the identities of all four of his CQ's as soon as he came on duty himself. During his tour he should have walked through all four company areas, stopping at each orderly room, talking to each CQ to see that all was well.
When I gave him the corporal's name, the OD told me that he was preferring court martial charges against him for disobedience of orders in that he had failed to turn off a fire light. Humbug! This was not disobedience but rather a simple case of forgetfulness.
By lucky chance, Lt Tomkins was in his office, and I went in to tell him of the call I had just received. He whistled and a look of disgust came over his face. I guess he read in my manner that I wanted something more, because he asked me what I wanted him to do. I said, "I want you to give the corporal company punishment right now to block the court martial." His face brightened, and he said, "What punishment do you suggest?" When I answered, "Restriction to the post till retreat on Friday", he immediately recognized the significance of my proposal. No one was allowed a pass to get off post during the week anyway. The punishment would in fact be no punishment at all. Elated, he said, "By God, sergeant! You've got it!" I called the corporal in, and we went through the formality of making the proper entries in the company punishment book.
You see, a soldier may not be given both company punishment and a court martial for the same offense. That would be double jeopardy. More importantly, a court martial conviction is entered on his service record which follows him wherever he goes while company punishment is not so entered, and the company punishment book stays at the company.
For idiocy such as that, and I suppose a myriad other reasons as well, the division's AWOL rate was so high and so many mothers were writing complaining letters to their congressmen, that there was a congressional investigation.
21 Feb 1952 - My 23rd birthday.
A directive came out mandating that each company have its own chemical defense specialist. This duty would be part time and in addition to the man's regular duties. I think the average GI is not interested in chemical attack and defense and probably would rather not get involved with it since it is rather scary and repugnant to most individuals. Only permanent party personnel were to be assigned this duty. In a basic training company, there are only about twenty or so permanent cadre, including cooks, the rest being the trainees who, upon completion of the training cycle, would be transferred out.
This left a rather small pool out of which the chemical defense specialist could be selected. Obviously, for the specialist to be competent, he had to be trained. I volunteered. I'm sure the Army would have been more satisfied if someone else had agreed to the duty, but no one else would step forward. In the event of chemical attack, a company's first sergeant would have his hands full, and to have him drop those responsibilities in order to look to the chemical defense would not be the best situation.
23 Feb 1952 - I reported to Fort George G. Meade, Maryland, headquarters of the Second Army, to attend a two-week course at the Unit Chemical Defense School where I learned field defense against chemical, bacteriological and radiological weapons. Most of the chemical portion of the course I already knew, but the bacteriological portion convinced me in that if anthrax is dumped on a population, little can be done. A lot of people will die. In the radiological portion I wondered how many lead walled shelters there would be available, but I learned to use a Geiger counter so I would be able to guess at how much of an overdose of radiation to which I was being exposed.
While at Fort Meade, I visited with Charlie Fair, my friend from Germany. He let me know that M/Sgt Robert A. Beaugh, who also had been at Hanau with us, was on post in the Second Army Chemical Office. While I was visiting with Bob, he asked as to my welfare. After hearing my description of life in the 101st Airborne Infantry Division, he said something like, "That's no place for a career soldier with your abilities." After a short conversation he convinced me that I should apply for assignment as a Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) instructor. When I returned to Camp Breckinridge, I prepared my application and handed it to Lt Tomkins. In due course I received a personal letter from Bob telling me that my application had been processed and approved in his office and that I should be getting my transfer orders in a few days.
Since his letter had been written a few days before, I phoned Division Hq personnel office to ask if my orders were there. Negative. I phoned the next day. Negative.
8 Apr 1952 - When I got a negative response this day, I went to the personnel office at Division Headquarters. As I was sitting next to a clerk's desk hearing him say that he had seen no orders for me, my eyes wandered around and happened to come to rest at his wastebasket where I could see a set of orders with my name on them. I snatched them out and growled, "What the hell is this!?" There were several copies, the top one of which was smeared with a dark brown stain. The clerk had a briar pipe on his desk, and I surmised that he had used my orders on which to wipe the inside of its stem. Taking the top dirty copy off the pack and throwing it onto his desk, I rushed out with the rest of the copies in my hand. If I had not gone there and found my orders, I feel sure that nothing would have happened until the date on which I was to report to my new duty station. There, when I did not present myself, I would be counted as AWOL. That, of course, could be straightened out but not without inconvenience.
It was only two days before my "will proceed" date, that is, the date on which I was to leave Camp Breckinridge. I hustled to prepare a clearance certificate and go around to various offices on post getting signatures indicating I didn't owe anybody any money or property.
10 Apr 1952 - My "will proceed" date. With five days delay enroute and two days travel time, I was off to The Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio.
17 Apr 1952 - I reported in to The Ohio State University, which, being a "Land Grant College", had a very large ROTC department which included Army, Navy and Air Force. All physically fit male students, other than veterans and conscientious objectors, were required to take ROTC training during their first two years as students. They were then urged to volunteer to continue their training through the next two years after which they would be commissioned as second lieutenants or ensigns in the Reserves.
Colonel Paullin, Artillery, assisted by Colonel Devereaux, Chemical Corps, headed up the Army section of the ROTC at Ohio State. Courses leading to commissions in many of the Arms and Services of the Army were offered. When I reported in, I was pleased to find that my immediate superior was Major Bruce M. Whitesides who, as a captain, had been my company commander at Schierling and my operations officer at Hanau. The major gave me a list of the subjects we would be teaching and asked which ones I wanted. I chose weapons, close order drill, military justice, and military history, traditions and courtesy. He said something like, "Fine. If you hadn't chosen weapons, I would have assigned it to you. I'll take the rest."
There were no Army barracks or any messhall at Ohio State. Through the university's housing office, I found a room in a house catering to college students on 18th Street, east off High Street. The Army gave me "rations and quarters" which is a money allowance out of which I was expected to provide my own food and shelter. I enjoyed my position as an instructor of ROTC at Ohio State.
One of the branches of the Army represented in the ROTC was the Transportation Corps, which had one of those amphibious vehicles called a "duck". One nice spring day some of us took it out for a spin on the Scioto River, all as a matter of our training mission, of course.
The Armored Corps, also represented in our ROTC, had a light tank at the university. It had to be run from time to time, to keep its maintenance up, and I rode in it once out on the athletic field. It was not allowed out on any of the city streets.
Many of the Chemical Corps students were majoring in chemical engineering. Often I would ask a student why he had made that choice. Today, there is only one answer that I can still remember: "I flunked out of accounting."
June and July 1952 - During summer, instructors and those ROTC students who have just completed their third year of training go to Summer Camp at a regular Army post used by the Arm or Service whose course they are studying. With Major Whitesides and me, our Chemical Corps students went to Fort McClellan, Alabama. Students from many colleges and universities around the country were there. I taught classes in, among other things, the 4.2 inch mortar. Capt Richard B. Elliott was there with his students from the University of Delaware. I was pleased to see him.
While at McClellan I "bumped into" two other officers from the 2d Chemical Mortar Battalion: 1st Lt Arthur F. Nieto, whom I had known well as an enlisted man in Hq Co back at Edgewood, and who had accepted a battlefield commission in Co A in Korea, and Capt Snow. Art was glad to see me and I him, but at the greeting Snow gave me, anyone would have thought I had been his long-lost brother.
Soon after the war in Korea had started, many men's terms of enlistment were extended one year. This was apparently done at President Truman's instigation because the extension was referred to as the "Truman Year". My enlistment had been due to expire on 29 Feb 29 1952, but the Truman Year extended that date to 28 Feb 1953. While I was at Fort McClellan, a directive came out that allowed a soldier who had been to Korea and who was on his Truman Year to request a discharge.
I had some hard thinking to do. I liked the Army. I was a master sergeant, the highest enlisted grade. My current duty with Major Whitesides was excellent, and I could expect to stay at Ohio State for probably three years before being sent on to some other place. Still, Captain Snow's charges against me in Korea had been harrowing.
There was another, more recent development. I had become aware that students not as bright as I were successfully making it through college. If they could do it, why couldn't I?
25 Jun 1952 - I requested discharge from the service.
At the end of the ROTC training camp, I returned to the Ohio State University at Columbus, Ohio.
15 Aug 1952 - Today was a turning point. I was about to start a new life. For the first time ever, I attached my ribbons to my Ike jacket just above the left breast pocket. I drove down to Fort Hayes near the downtown section of Columbus and was honorably discharged.
On my drive to my parents' home in Geneva, Ohio, I stopped at Kent State University and enrolled for the Fall term. I had the GI Bill to help me pay for it. Korea had taught me that a man can become physically incapacitated quickly and without warning. I wanted to learn something that would prepare me for a life work that I could do that would not demand physical ability. Without any career counseling, I chose accounting.
People interested in history sometimes like to amuse themselves by imagining how things might have come out if certain things that did happen didn't, and other things that didn't happen did. I've already mentioned that I think that if I had been transferred back to my platoon in Co B as was my expectation and my desire after Tyndall had regained his commission, I would have been murdered at Unsan the night of November 1 to 2, 1950 instead of M/Sgt Brothers. I've also said that I believe that if the 8th Cavalry Regiment had not fought its way into our surrounded perimeter at Unsan, even in my position as intelligence sergeant I would have been killed or captured.
During the evacuation of Kunuri, if I hadn't gotten the word to take the road to Anju, or if I happened to be riding with the remnants of the 2nd Infantry Division, I could have gone into the "gauntlet" with a good chance of not coming out of it.
Let's suppose that Capt Snow hadn't walked through my gun position the night of February 19, 1951 nor the next morning. I think I would not have been boarded and would have remained in my position as platoon sergeant of the second platoon of Co C. If my commission had not yet come through, I would have been with my platoon at Hwach'on the night of 22 Apr 1951 where I might have met a fate similar to that of Hugh Whitacre at Kunuri.
If my commission had come through by that time, and if I survived the war, I would have remained in the Army as had been my intention. I would not have been assigned to The Ohio State University. I would not have gone to college where I did in fact meet the woman who became my wife. Without a college education, had I stayed in as an officer, I probably would not have risen to any more than a captaincy. As it was, the position that I attained in my business career was high enough that I was included in Marquis' Who's Who in America for nearly twenty years. It is my understanding that, for an Army officer to be so included, unless he has done some specially noteworthy service, he must have reached the rank of major general. This, however, does not mean that I, myself, think that my civilian business position was at all comparable to that of a major general.
I suppose I should thank Capt Snow for his being drunk and frightened that cold winter's night so long ago.
There is one final thing I want to tell. I was never awarded a medal for individual valor or meritorious service. I never expected any. Though I considered myself a conscientious soldier, I don't think I ever did more than what I expected of myself. In December 1950, when I became the platoon sergeant of the second platoon of Co C because Hugh Whitacre had been lost, I wanted to make my own place with the platoon. Some years later, George Lesser visited us. He married a Baltimore girl, had three daughters, and would go on to become the motor sergeant for a battalion of semi-tractor trailer rigs in France and finally succumb to a heart attack while serving as post maintenance sergeant at Fort Holibird in Baltimore. During the conversation, George turned to my wife and said, "You know, we always felt safe when Carl was with us."
There, that was my place!
I wouldn't trade his words for a Silver Star.
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